WHY DOES PA-18 MATTER?
Meaning whoever ends up winning Tuesday’s (3/13) special election not only has to run again eight short months from now, he has to run in a very different district. So did the race for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District matter?
To begin with, if I believed him, I’d have voted for Conor Lamb.
I live just north of the PA-18 district line in Allegheny County, but I saw all the ads.
Lamb, 33, was the more attractive candidate. He’s handsome and articulate. Rick Saccone is a pudgy pol whose oratory is pedestrian.
Both have impressive resumes. The son of a steelworker, Lamb is a former Marine officer and a former federal prosecutor. Saccone was an Air Force CID officer and a college professor before being elected to the PA senate in 2010.
No pol is pure as the driven snow, but the oppo ads against both candidates were reaches. No skeletons in either closet.
In a way, this was a reprise of the 1960 presidential election, with Lamb cast as Jack Kennedy, Saccone in the role of Dick Nixon. As in that race, this one was decided more by appearances and partisan affiliation than by issues and ideology.
Lamb, the Democrat, said he supports President Trump on taxes and trade, is pro-Life and pro-2nd Amendment. He’ll vote against Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, Lamb said, but in his public appearances had nary an unkind thing to say about the President.
This election pitted a pro-Trump Republican against an ostensibly pro-Trump Democrat. The silliest possible take is the outcome is a repudiation of the President.
It would be wonderful if Lamb were telling the truth. It’s way past time for moderate Democrats to challenge the Marxists for control of their party. But Dems tend to say one thing to win elections, do another once they get to Washington.
What PA-18 indicates is Republicans have a problem.
Trump won PA-18 by 22 percentage points. If he’d been on the ballot Tuesday, he’d have won by 25 or more.
But the president wasn’t on the ballot Tuesday, won’t be in November.
It isn’t surprising a Dem could eke out a win in PA-18. There are more Democrats (46 percent) than Republicans (41 percent) in it.
And – as has been the case in virtually every election since Nov. 8, 2016 – turnout among Democrats was higher.
The enthusiasm gap has been most pronounced in elections for the Virginia legislature and for the U.S. Senate in Alabama. But if GOP turnout in PA-18 had been the same as for Dems, Rick Saccone likely would have been declared the winner Tuesday night.
He still might be. My paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports how the GOP is demanding voting machines be impounded for a recount. There were GOP voters in Allegheny County who were not permitted to vote. And those 627 votes (out of 200,000) Lamb claims he won by mysteriously appeared Tuesday night after tabulations were supposed to be in. Allegheny County voting machines were “miscalibrated,” you see. Saccone is not conceding.
Have Democrats found the formula for retaking the House?
I doubt it.
Conor Lamb was an unusually attractive candidate running in a district ideal for a moderate Democrat against a lackluster opponent for an open seat. Incumbents typically have an advantage.
More important, Lamb didn’t have a primary.
Moonbats enraged the evil Drumpf denied Queen Hillary her rightful throne fueled the enthusiasm gap. If there’d been a primary, do you think Moonbats would vote for a Democrat who is pro-Life and pro-gun, supports Trump’s economic policies?
Democrats, who don’t have much money, spent a lot to elect Lamb, because it was the only race at the time. That won’t be the case in November.
The enthusiasm gap may be starting to fade. There wasn’t much reason for Republicans to vote in the Texas primary March 6. All statewide incumbents were popular, none had more than token opposition.
Democrats had many competitive races, but GOP turnout exceeded theirs. Dem Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke already has begun auditioning for a talk show host job on CNN or MSNBC.
But Republicans should treat PA-18 as a wakeup call.
Nearly every Republican elected to Congress in 2016 ran ahead of Donald Trump. Many were slow to embrace the president and his agenda because they felt they owed Trump nothing.
That worm has turned. The president’s stellar performance has returned to the fold almost all of those Republicans who voted for Egg McMuffin or Gary Johnson, or didn’t vote for president, in 2016.
Support for Trump among blue collar workers (including many with black or brown skins) is growing by leaps and bounds.
The weekend before the election, polls indicated Lamb had a 4-6 point lead. If they were accurate, that means Trump’s rally for Saccone last Saturday cut Lamb’s lead to zero. Not even Ronald Reagan had coattails that long.
Republicans who win in 2018 will be those who have most enthusiastically climbed aboard the Trump train.
He’s resisted by those in the GOPe who benefit from cheap immigrant labor and cheap (for them) Chinese goods.
They – and the conservative “intellectuals” they subsidize – resist at their peril.
I strongly support President Trump’s trade policies because I think they are vital to national security and very good for our economy.
Republicans ambivalent about them should bear in mind that Trump’s policies are enormously popular.
We’re in the midst of a political paradigm shift, as in 1932.
Clinton started, Obama completed the transformation of the Democrats from the party of the working man to the party of filthy rich crony capitalists, and snotty Marxist elitists who feed off the public trough.
President Trump is squaring the circle, turning the GOP into the party of the working man.
We deplorables don’t have as much money as the elites, but we have more votes. A successful political party is a big tent. Trump is making ours bigger.
Jack Kelly is a former Marine and Green Beret, and was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force during the Reagan Administration. Until his retirement in January 2017, he was the national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette