GOP braces for potential upset in Pennsylvania special election

GOP braces for potential upset in Pennsylvania special election

GOP braces for potential upset in Pennsylvania special election

Republicans are scrambling to avoid a political disaster in a conservative district of Pennsylvania, where a pro-gun, pro-union Democrat who opposes abortion could be about to win a congressional election in one of President Donald Trump's white, working-class strongholds.

Democrat Conor Lamb tops Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania's 18th District by 51% to 45%, just outside the poll's 5.1-percentage-point margin of sampling error for likely voters.

I would say that Trump couldn't have hurt Saccone more if he'd directly praised Conor Lamb on the stump. "That's the kind of candidate, the kind of campaign, that Democrats might try to imitate moving forward". The people who toiled in the mines and mills that once thrived here worked like dogs but they were rewarded with a slice of the pie; their children, not so much.

But the dynamics have changed in the district, which runs from wealthy suburbs south of Pittsburgh through hardscrabble steel and coal mining towns to farmlands along the West Virginia border.

Lamb has run to the right of most Democrats on a series of issues.

Polls show Lamb and Saccone in a tight race ahead of Tuesday's special House election.

"I don't know if that's popular, I don't know if that's unpopular", he said in raising the idea for the first time.

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Lamb's district, Pennsylvania's 18th, voted for Donald Trump by 20 percentage points more than Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. (Mr Trump called him "Lamb the sham" in his speech.) Another ad claims Mr Lamb wants to help Ms Pelosi give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

Trump visited twice, including a rally Saturday night where he spoke for 75 minutes and whipped supporters up to back Saccone.

Given the size of the president's 2016 majority, Saccone can afford to lose some of Trump's base. But he said he thinks he's better looking, and added that Saccone "is handsome", too.

Here as elsewhere, Republicans have counted on their $1.5 trillion tax cut to counter voter discontent with the turbulence surrounding Trump.

At his rally Saturday, Trump touted his recent decision to impose sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as well as the tax bill Republicans passed previous year.

"The knock on young voters is that they don't turn out", Mikus said.

The district has education and income levels higher than the national and Pennsylvania averages in part because it includes some affluent parts of Allegheny County near Pittsburgh.

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Lamb winning would be "egg on the face of the president" and "a really big deal", said Philip Harold, a political scientist at Robert Morris University in suburban Pittsburgh. A former federal prosecutor and Marine, who shoots a rifle in one campaign ad, Lamb identifies himself with hometown values of service and sacrifice. A moderate Democrat, who occasionally sounds like a Republican, Mr Lamb is a savvy user of social media who revealed himself to be a prodigious fund-raiser. He favors enforcing existing gun laws and improving the current system of background checks over setting new gun restrictions.

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Saccone and Trump Jr. chatted and took photos with employees on the tour, attended by dozens of local and national reporters covering the 18th District race, which has been cast as a bellwether for November midterms in which Democrats hope to win more seats in Congress.

The election will be held on Tuesday.

The fundraising gap has led to criticism of Saccone from the Washington establishment, with some of their grievances - his inability to court donors and skeletal full-time campaign staff - appearing in news reports in recent days.

Republican groups from outside the state have given Mr Saccone donations of $9m. Since every seat matters and there are only a few contests happening at the moment, an absurd amount of money has poured into the district; as of last Monday, almost $12 million had been spent on ads that are no doubt driving residents batty.

"They say the other side is energized", Saccone reportedly said.

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