The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Significance of PA-18

Rich Galen

Monday March 5, 2017

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  • A week from tomorrow, there will be a special Congressional election in the District known as Pennsylvania 18. This is an open seat to replace married, former Rep. Tim Murphy who resigned, having been discovered urging a girlfriend with whom he had an affair to get an abortion after she became … well … you know.

  • Murphy had been staunchly pro-life, which is why this became a career-ender.

  • Pennsylvania 18 lies in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania. In the dictionary, if you look up the term "Trump Country" you are shown a map of PA-18.

  • There are 70,000 more Registered Democrats than Republicans in the district. These are the types of data which appear to have caused the Clinton camp to ignore districts like PA-18. With that many Ds why spend her valuable time campaigning there?

  • Trump carried the district by about 20 percentage points in the Presidential election of 2016.

  • The Democrat is Conor Lamb, a former Marine and former assistant U.S. Attorney. The Republican is Rick Saccone, a State Representative who is not, according to Pennylvania politicos with whom I have talked, nearly as good a candidate as the Democrat.

  • This should have been a walk-over for the GOP. The Democrat candidate should have been as a lamb being led to slaughter.

  • Just last week, one of Roll Call's political gurus, Nathan Gonzales moved the race from "leaning Republican" to "toss-up."

  • Given my proven capabilities in political prognostication, I will not attempt to pick the winner.

  • But, it is looking like it will be anything but a landslide either way.

  • Not only is the Democrat Lamb more telegenic, more energetic and, according to locals, a better campaign than the Republican Saccone, he is also a better fund-raiser.

  • From CNN:
    "From January 1 through February 21, the final complete filing period before the special election, which is set for March 13. Lamb took in around $3.3 million during this period, compared to about $700,000 for Saccone.

    "During the same period, Lamb's campaign spent $2.9 million while Saccone's campaign spent a little over $600,000. And with 11 days to go in the race, Lamb's campaign has over $800,000 in cash on hand, to Saccone's $300,000."

  • I'm not certain how you spend nearly a million dollars a month in a district like PA-18, so this might turn out to follow the law of diminishing returns, but it is something else Republicans have to explain away.

  • Donald Trump is scheduled to make an appearance on behalf of Saccone sometime in the next week. At stake for the Trump team is whether he should risk yet another appearance in support of a candidate who might lose.

  • Think the Alabama Senate special where Trump endorsed Luther Strange in the Republican primary only to have Strange beaten by Roy Moore. Trump then endorsed Moore, in spite of his reported problems chasing teen-aged girls when he was in his 30s.

  • Moore lost to the Democrat Doug Jones and Trump was oh-for-two in just one election.

  • There have been claims that Trump's lurch into a trade war with his announcement of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum were timed to affect the vote in PA-18, given its proximity to Pittsburgh.

  • According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
    "The 10th largest steel company in the world -- United States Steel Corp. -- is not only headquartered in Pittsburgh, but it also still makes steel here.

    "Allegheny Technologies, one of the top specialty-steel makers in the world, has eight manufacturing plants in the region, and several other specialty steel companies have facilities here. As a result, we still have 7,000 steel jobs in the region, and more than 12,000 in the primary metals sector."

  • Polling in a single Congressional District for a Special Election is notoriously difficult. In the RealClearPolitics list of polls in PA-18, Saccone (R) leads by between 12 and 3 points. In the two most recent polls Saccone's lead is between three and six points.

  • Whatever happens, the winners will claim it is a harbinger of what will happen in November during the mid-term elections. It is not.

  • The losers will claim the margin was so close that nothing can be drawn from the result. Probably true.

  • Not only that, but because of the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision regarding Republican-led gerrymandering, Pennsylvania 18 will disappear and whoever wins will have only eight months to reboot their campaign and run against an incumbent in whichever newly-drawn district they land.

  • So, this may be another example of Macbeth complaining of
    A tale, told by an idiot,
    full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Wikipedia overview of Pennsylvania 18, to the Tim Murphy saga, and to the Post-Gazette's summary of the region's economy.

    The Mullfoto is one of those that made me back up and look more closely when walking through downtown DC.

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