Win or lose, too-close-to-call Pennsylvania race already means 'the House is in danger' for Republicans

Win or lose, too-close-to-call Pennsylvania race already means 'the House is in danger' for Republicans
From CBC - March 14, 2018

Pennsylvania's crucial, too-close-to-call special election yielded no definitivewinner early Wednesday morning.Not that it really matters either way. It's already a dreadful outcome for Republicans now doubting whether they can hold the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall.

Even before the count is complete for the remaining 3,000-plus absentee ballots for Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone, the toss-up special election in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district is an unnerving setback for Republicans, simply by virtue of this being a contest in the first place.

As Republican voters like Kevin Sheahen sawit, it was a race for both an open seat and for control of a political storyline. Sheahen, 63, worries about what a Saccone loss means for U.S. President Donald Trump's ability to retain the lower chamber to "build a wall to protect our borders, vote no on chain migration, and help Americans with tax cuts."

Now he's fretting over the congressional math.

'This fires up the Democrats'

"This fires up the Democrats. If they win 24 seats in the House, they get control," said Sheahen, an engineer in a Pittsburgh suburb in Allegheny County. "Flipping those House seats from Republican to Democrat is what worries me. Democrats have the momentum working in their favour."

Tuesday night's race was widely viewed as a referendum on the president. For Republicans, nothing but a landslide Saccone victory would have alleviated anxieties of an impending blue wave and reaffirmed that sticking with Trump helps the party win seats.

Trump won the predominantly white and working-class voting district by nearly 20 points in 2016. Mitt Romney carried it by 17 points in 2012.

The district, which borders West Virginia,stretches over four counties, with a mix of coal and factory towns, rural farmland andaffluent Pennsylvania suburbs. It has been solidly red for 15 years. In the last two elections, the Democrats, sensing no hope of winning there, did not even field a candidate.

'This should be a wake-up call'

And yet, with allprecincts reporting, Lamb had eked out a lead of fewer than 600 votes, thoughsomeabsentee ballots were yet to be counted. Lamb declared victory early Wednesday, but Sacconehas not conceded.

However it pans out, the margins have improved dramatically for Democrats since 2016. A 20-per-cent swing is nothing to sniff at, says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, who knows Pennsylvania's 18th well.

"This shows the Republicans what a tough climate they are in," O'Connell said. "We do not know if it's a blue wave, but one thing's for sure: Republicans should certainly be scared."

If Republicans were not panicking before, it's time, he said.

"They need to be getting off their duffs, knocking on doorsand dialling for dollars. Because this should be a wake-up call for Republicans that the House is in danger."

Laying off Trump

The rise of Lamb, a 33-year-old former Marine and federal prosecutor who has never held political office, has made Democrats giddy about seeing the Trump resistance bear fruit.

They view his campaignas a possible winning formula for November's midterm elections: fielding a moderate focused on local issues, with less political baggage.

"It also means laying off Trump, which does not mean they like him, or that they want him to win re-election, but leaving Trump off the table," said Terry Madonna, director of Pennsylvania's Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.

"This is a victory for the Democrats because it shows their excitement, it shows their energy level, it shows a way forward in blue-collar, working-class Rust Belt districts."

'Trump before Trump was Trump'

'There's hope'

A rebuke of the president


Continue reading at CBC »