Ossoff, 30, was the top vote getter in a field of 18 candidates, 11 of them Republicans, in a suburban Atlanta district that has sent Republicans to Congress since the 1970s.
But she'll run up against Handel backers like 82-year-old Bev Wingate.
Trump weighed in heavily on the race, tweeting about it repeatedly in the closing days of the race and criticizing Ossoff by name.
Press secretary Sean Spicer said the results marked a "big loss" as they had been anticipating a large win. Bernie Sanders have been traveling nationwide to rally Democratic support, and he told the "Morning Joe" program that the goal is to "get back to basics". There will now be a run-off between Ossoff and Handel.
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"First of all, Georgia's Sixth Congressional District - the fact that Jon Ossoff pulled in five or six points more than most Republicans thought that he would have, and Lindsey Graham said this is a wakeup call to the Republican Party, that there's a lot of moderates that need to emerge in the South to a greater degree that the Republican Party needs to pay attention to", a reporter said.
Having Trump in the race would likely be welcomed by Democrats, who have energized volunteers on behalf of Ossoff due to their disdain for the president. "They came up short", he said.
Despite Ossoff's significant financial advantage, a slew of liberal celebrities boosting his profile, and a Democratic base eager to tag a win against Trump, the documentary filmmaker-turned-politician failed to reach the 50 percent threshold required to avoid a runoff. "They spent $8.3 million dollars and threw everything including the kitchen sink at it, and lost".
Spicer did not mention that outside Republican groups also plowed millions into attacking Ossoff and encouraging GOP turnout; a political action committee backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other House GOP leaders accounted for at least $2.2 million.
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As for whether Trump will campaign with Handel, Spicer said: "We'll see if we're needed". But they have yet to enact major legislation to fulfill campaign promises. "Partly because I think he will insist on it", said Dr. Kerwin Swint of Kennesaw State University. "We defied the odds, shattered expectations, and now are ready to fight on and win in June".
Handel won just 19.8%, but in Trump's eyes, that's a "BIG" win.
The runoff victor will succeed Republican Tom Price, who resigned to join Trump's administration as health secretary. Werner reported from Washington.
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