Tuesday, March 13, 2018
A victory for Democrat Conor Lamb could show Democrats how their party can appeal to the white working class -- and cause Republicans to rethink their midterms strategy.
Candidate Percent Votes
Precincts Reporting, 221,231 Total Votes
Voters went to the polls today to cast their ballots in the special election between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb, who are running in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district. But because the district will soon be redrawn, the stakes here have little to do with political power and everything to do with symbolism: A Democratic victory could show how the party can appeal to the white working class -- and cause Republicans to rethink their midterms strategy.
"If the Republican candidate wins by five points, it's much ado about nothing," Republican strategist Mike DeVanney told me. "If Lamb wins, we're going to have to do some examining of the type of candidates we nominate and the message we bring to voters."
The seat should be easy pickings for Republicans, but for the past month, the polls have been tight. The Cook Political Report recently upped the seat's rating from "Leans Republican" to "Toss Up."
On Monday morning, a new Monmouth University poll gave Lamb a six-point advantage over Saccone. Republicans are worried, and it shows: GOP-affiliated groups have spent more than $9 million to support Saccone, and Trump has already visited the district twice.
Strategists told me that part of the reason for Lamb's success so far is local Democrats' frustration with Trump: They're fired up and ready to vote, and it's easier for a party to challenge than to be challenged. But they said that's only part of the equation.
"If the Democrat wins, it's because he had an individualized message, repudiated [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi, and appealed to blue-collar, white working people again," said Democratic strategist Jeff Hewitt.
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