Republicans Struggle To Salvage Congressional Seat In Pennsylvania

Republicans are scrambling to avoid a political embarrassment in a conservative district of Pennsylvania, where a pro-gun, pro-union Democrat who opposes abortion could be about to win a congressional election in one of President Donald Trump’s white, working-class strongholds.

Democrat Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor, is in a dead heat with Republican state Representative Rick Saccone in Tuesday’s special election for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Republicans have held since 2003.

The race is seen as a referendum on Trump and a harbinger for November’s congressional midterm elections, according to pollsters and party insiders who say the moderate Democrat could emerge as a model for Democratic candidates in other competitive House districts that Trump carried in 2016.

Trump won the district, in southwest Pennsylvania, by nearly 20 points in 2016 and has endorsed Saccone.

Still, Lamb has fought to make the contest a local referendum and said he was focused on issues in his district even as he welcomed Democratic enthusiasm over the race.

Saccone, 60, a conservative who has described himself as“Trump before Trump was Trump,” led the race by more than 10 percentage points in January. The contest has since narrowed to a toss-up on a wave of Democratic voter enthusiasm for Lamb.

Republicans see the president’s plans to impose steel and aluminum import tariffs as a way to generate enough enthusiasm among Trump’s blue-collar supporters to counteract the energy of Lamb’s backers.

“They’re hoping this is something that potentially, in the grand calculus, could throw Saccone over the top,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

While the district has just over 500,000 registered voters, U.S. Labor Department statistics show that metal production accounts for less than 10,000 jobs.

Read more from David Morgan at Reuters

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