The Significance Of The Looming PA Special Election
On March 13th, the 18th congressional district of Pennsylvania is voting in a special election to replace Republican Representative Tim Murphy. Murphy resigned following a hard-hitting scandal. The married representative was accused of having sexual relations with a mistress, getting her pregnant, and pressuring her into having an abortion despite his pro-life political platform.
However, this early resignation presents an opportunity for Democrats to take yet another seat as the congressional midterms are beginning to fully kick into gear. Considering how the 18th district from which Murphy resigned is a predominantly rural, white area with a significant coal mining industry, Republican nominee Rick Saccone is expected to defeat Democrat Conor Lamb nevertheless.
During the 2016 presidential election, the Democrats lost massively in the “Rust Belt” states, including Pennsylvania. After years of consistent Democratic support, these states reliant upon heavy industries such as coal and steel saw consistent economic decline and ruin. Many of the disgruntled working class who voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 switched over to Republican Donald Trump in 2016 and elected Republicans into local offices as well.
President Trump himself came to Pennsylvania in order to directly support Saccone, making it clear that a Republican victory in that state is essential to the party. Vice President Mike Pence is also expected to make a follow-up visit to stoke support for Saccone.
While it is very common for the opposite party of the president to take control of Congress during the midterm elections, midterms are also a way to gauge voter’s feelings on the current president. As a result, Trump has a personal interest in seeing a Republican win the PA seat, as that would indicate continued support and approval of himself.
If the people approve of Trump’s presidency, and most importantly, his tax bill pledging to help alleviate the economic struggle in places like the Rust Belt, a Saccone is most likely to win. However, if Democrat's enthusiasm rises as Republican's subside, then many more states could be lost, bringing back a Democratic majority in Congress. If the Republican Party wishes to retain this seat (which is a proxy for the midterms), then they must revive the fervor seen during the 2016 elections, and brush off the creeping complacency. If the Republicans go into this election season with the same sense of concern as they did in 2016, there could likely be a matched enthusiasm. The challenge is the reality that those dependent on the growth of the welfare state tend to (by nature) be more incentivized to vote than those defending their property from predation. It will not harm the GOP to move forward with a sense of concern, it only serves to up their voter participation rates.
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