It would have made it clear that as nightmarish as the Trump presidency has been, as much as every day since Trump's inauguration has been poisoned by his presence, help is on the way in the midterms.
Handel, an establishment Republican and former state secretary of state, defeated Democratic challenger and political novice Jon Ossoff by about five percentage points, USA television networks projected, denying Democrats what would have been their first election victory of the year.
The Georgia race effectively had become a national battle, with Democrats pumping millions behind Ossoff and eager to cast a victory as a referendum on Trump.
While candidates have come close to winning - the SC election, also on Tuesday, wound up being surprisingly narrow - they have yet to eke out a win. Republican Ralph Norman got 51.1 percent of the vote to Democrat Archie Parnell's 47.9 percent. Ted Kennedy, Democrats were forced to act quickly to pass Obamacare, despite deep reservations and divisions across the party about the legislation.
Ossoff performed far better than Democrats have recently.
"We need a genuinely new message, a serious jobs plan that reaches all Americans, and a bigger tent", he wrote, "not a smaller one".
Senator Chris Murphy of CT told MSNBC that Democrats needed to focus on economic growth and "get back to being a big tent party". Not really: a year later, Republicans won 63 U.S. House seats and took control of the chamber.
Protestations aside, Handel often embraced the national tenor of the race, joining a GOP chorus that lambasted Ossoff as a "dangerous liberal" who was "hand-picked" by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
#NeverTrump Republicans should, where feasible, consider primary challenges and/or third-party races to present voters with an alternative center-right candidate, someone who will insist on enforcement of the Constitution's emoluments clause, root out Trumpian corruption, demand that the president fulfill promises to rebuild the military and take on his complete failure to reform the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, they shouldn't be shy about pointing to Tuesday's other special election. The party got closer than it has in decades to winning some of the four seats - a sign they've closed their gaps with Republicans in both suburban and rural areas and in 2018 will have a broad playing field with dozens of more competitive districts.
Democrat Jon Ossoff came very close to flipping a blood-red Georgia district to blue.
Now, with Handel keeping Price's old seat in GOP hands, Democratic strategists insist that health care will still be powerful ammunition against Republicans in next year's congressional elections.
Republicans can also now breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that they can still win in the kind of affluent, educated districts that often favor Democrats - even with a president who has divided voters in their own party.