Some political experts are rating the March 13 special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district as a toss-up.
We disagree. Republican Win Daily rates this race as “Likely Republican” due to the heavy Republican lean and several factors.
This is normally a safe Republican seat. Donald Trump won this western Pennsylvania district by 19 percentage points, 58%-39%, and Mitt Romney carried the district by 18 points, 58%-41%.
The district was represented by Republican Congressman Tim Murphy until he resigned in October after an abortion scandal. Murphy was extremely popular and even ran unopposed in 2016 and 2014.
The Republican nominee is state Rep. Rick Saccone, a populist conservative who supports Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminum.
The nominee for the Democrats is Marine veteran and prosecutor Conor Lamb. The 33-year-old seems like a strong recruit on paper, but he was exposed by the Free Beacon for writing a 2002 post accusing the Israeli government committed “terrorism.” Lamb didn’t apologize and said he had no memory of it.
RWD’s rating for the election is partly based on the fact that the Republican nominee himself doesn’t have any baggage. Child molester Roy Moore lost a Senate election and significantly underperformed Trump in a state the president won 62%-34%. Journalist-beater Greg Gianforte also underperformed Trump in his 6-point election win in a district Trump won 56%-36%.
It’s also notable that Democrats performed extremely well in 2017 in low turnout races such as South Carolina’s 5th special election (18% turnout) and Kansas’ 4th special election (29% turnout). This special election will likely be a high turnout race like Georgia’s 6th special election (58% turnout) due to the high amount of campaign spending.
Additionally, the generic ballot is better now for Republicans. The RealClearPolitics average has ranged from D+6.5 points to D+9.3 points since Trump’s widely praised State of the Union speech in January. In the two weeks prior to the Virginia and New Jersey elections, Democrats had a double-digit lead in the RCP average.
It’s also notable that Trump didn’t have a major accomplishment until his tax cuts in late December, after several congressional elections in 2017.
We also believe that Trump’s new tariffs and Saccone’s support for them will likely motivate populist Trump voters to show up and cast a ballot for the Republican nominee in this blue-collar western Pennsylvania district.
Saccone is a strong enough candidate to win here.