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Democrat Conor Lamb Wins PA Special Election - Here's Why

     3/15/2018

Conor Lamb

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Democrat Conor Lamb pulled off a narrow victory in the Pennsylvania special election in the 18th Congressional District. This is a big victory for the Democratic party as they seek to take back the House and even potentially the Senate. This victory for Lamb is a major upset because the Republican party was supposed to win this district by a fairly large margin. The 18th Congressional district was one that President Trump won by nearly 20 points.

Conor Lamb (D)   113,813 (49.8%)


Rick Saccone (R)  113,186 (49.6%)


Drew Miller (L)  1,379 (0.6%)

                                                                                                                        

What Does This Mean For The Republican Party?

Last week, President Trump was campaigning hard for Republican nominee Rick Saccone. He held a large rally where he gave full support to Mr. Saccone and told his base to get out there and vote for Rick Saccone. President Trump saw that polls were coming out worse than expected so he tried salvaging the seat as best as he could, and ultimately did not prevail. This is a major loss for the Republican party simply due to the shift in support since 2016, making clear the intensity of the potential blue wave fomenting in the distance. Winning this district should not have been a problem for Republicans. Republican strategist Mike Murphy said, “We should be able to elect a box of hammers in this district.” Mr. Murphy also said, “If we're losing here, you can bet there is a Democratic wave coming.” Mr. Murphy is saying if Republicans are having Trouble winning a district they won by 20 points in the 2016 Presidential Election, imagine what will happen in districts with a more narrow lead.

This Victory for Conor Lamb is a scary sign for Republicans in the midterm elections coming up this fall. This election also proves endorsements from president Trump do not guarantee you a victory, although they tend to help in garnering enthusiasm. President Trump endorsed Roy Moore, he lost in a state where a Democrat hadn't won since 1992. Republicans could see a big blue wave in the midterm elections and possibly lose their majority in both the House and the Senate, although more likely in the house. Republicans need to campaign harder and find ways to reach voters with emotional appeals to make up for the vast enthusiasm gap. Economic success has not been enough to sway the public to vote Republican.

Although there are caveats to these results, such as the Democrat running as a conservative Democrat, the Libertarian Candidate garnering enough votes to bridge the gap (1,379), and the fact that these were "Trump Democrats" who switched over to vote for Republicans and Trump for some time but were historically Democrats. All this considered, it is still not an explanation for the repeated upsets and losses for the Republicans. It is traditionally the case that the opposition party tends to score sizable victories in the following midterms after a presidential election where the party has shifted. One strategy might be to nominate candidates with a true message who are ideologically grounded and will excite people. Liberty Republicans such as Eric Brakey, Austin Petersen, and Nick Freitas who are all running for Senate in 2018. One potenital downfall for Rick Saccone in this race may have been his opposition to Marijuana partial legalization, which is something that may have cost him the Libertarian vote.

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