US President Donald Trump greets well wishers as he returns from a day trip to Ohio at the White House in Washington. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

Though the congressional seat had been consistently Republican for decades, and the special election was being held to replace a Trump appointee, Tom Price, Democrats had high hopes Tuesday night.

But the young Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, was unable to defeat Karen Handel, who won by a margin of almost 4%, despite being down by 2% in pre-vote polling.

The win is big for Trump, who can shrug off speculation that his base of support was waning. It also means that Republican lawmakers can work on Trump’s agenda with some confidence that the president’s supporters have not been discouraged by negative media coverage.