Tuesday, March 13, 2018

All eyes on Pennsylvania

The eyes of the nation will be riveted on Pennsylvania today.

Specifically on a slice of the southwestern part of the state near Pittsburgh.

That's the home of the 18th Congressional District, which will hold a special election today to send a new representative to Washington.

Of course that means that not only will voters be electing a new congressman, they also will be taking part in a referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.

The election was created when longtime incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after the staunch abortion foe allegedly urged the woman he was having an affair with - and who he thought may have been pregnant - to consider getting an abortion.

Yeah, it's that kind of election.

Republicans are pulling out all the stops trying to lift Rick Saccone to victory over Democrat challenger Conor Lamb.

What's stirring the nation's interest in this race is just that - it's a race many are now saying Lamb is likely to win. In a district that sits in the shadow of shuttered steel mills and coal mines - that Trump dominated in the 2016 race.

There are some people who believe the 18th race may have been the deciding factor in Trump's push to announce new tariffs on imported steel.

The president showed up in person Friday night at a campaign rally in Moon Township. Unfortunately, he barely mentioned Saccone. Instead he talked for the most part about his favorite topic - himself, while attacking all his perceived foes, including, of course, the press. The president went after "Meet the Press" host and MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd as that "sleepy-eyed son of a bitch."

Yep, real presidential.

Vice President Mike Pence has admitted this election is "about a whole lot more than the two candidates on the ballot." The VP told Fox News that "the only thing at stake is everything."

Donald Trump Jr. also spent the day in the district Monday. He said Saccone would help his father's fight to bring jobs back to the U.S. from overseas.

Republicans in recent days have stepped up their attacks on Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor. They are saying he would be a puppet for House Dem leader Nancy Pelosi. The president pulled out his old tried-and-true tactic. During his rally Friday night he slapped a nickname on the Dem, mocking him as "Lamb the sham."

Lamb has specifically distanced himself from national Democrats, in particular Pelosi.

Polls continue to show the upstart Lamb with a slim lead in a region that Republicans have dominated for years. Look for Trump to take all the credit should Saccone pull out a win. And if he loses? It will be Saccone's fault, not a sign of erosion amid the white, middle-class voters who drove the Trump train to the White House.

The belief is that if Lamb wins, it will be the first ripples of a Democratic tidal wave in the November mid-terms. It could also spell more trouble in the Philly suburbs for Republicans, people like Ryan Costello in Chester County, and whoever winds up as the GOP choice in the newly created 5th Congressional District. Remember, Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, is not seeking re-election after his problems with using taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment suit filed by a former staff member.

This time tomorrow we'll know if Trump's act is wearing thin, or he's basking in the glow of pulling a failing candidate out of the mire.

Then it will be on to the mid-terms.

Buckle your seat belt. It's going to be a bumpy ride.


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