Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pennsylvania Oracle

Pundits, predictors, and cable news hosts — basically the same thing — are awaiting the results of today’s special election in Pennsylvania.

The stakes are high for President Trump and congressional Republicans in Tuesday’s special election to fill a U.S. House seat, with GOP leaders unnerved about the prospect of defeat and the implications for this year’s midterm elections.

A loss in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District — a working-class slice of the country that Trump has cultivated as his political base — could shatter hopes that his core voters will turn out in droves this fall and save the GOP’s 24-seat House majority.

And, coming days after the president announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the vote could raise fresh questions about the power of Trump’s protectionist agenda to lift his party.

“It really is a test that sets things in motion,” former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said. “Does the base have energy? Does the party have the structure and discipline it needs?”

The latest polling has the Democrat, Conor Lamb, up three points against Rick Saccone, the Republican who is hoping to keep the district in GOP hands, a seat they’ve held for generations.  The district, south of Pittsburgh, is mainly working-class white voters and went heavily for Trump in 2016.  But when the previous rep, Tim Murphy, resigned in a sex scandal, it became the test case Trump’s rhetoric versus the Democrats’ renewed energy to take our country back.

Ironically, the district will basically disappear by November when the court-mandated map is put in place.  But for now it’s all about who’s message gets out.

Scott Lemieux at LGM:

…Whether Saccone narrowly wins or narrowly loses a district Trump carried by nearly 20 points, it’s a sign Republicans are in serious, serious trouble in the fall. And while normally the outcome of the election would still be very important because of the incumbency advantage, because Pennsylvania’s elected judges decided to ram democracy RIGHT DOWN THE THROATS of Pennsylvania’s unrepresentative legislature the November election will be fought in a completely different district anyway. Saccone losing might lead to a few more preemptive retirements by GOP House members but that’s about it. It’s already bad news for Republicans and the only question is how bad.

Stay tuned.