Trump's Tariff Threat May Be Timed For Pennsylvania U.S. House Race

President Donald Trump has alarmed the Republican establishment and world leaders by threatening tough steel tariffs, a message that might be meant not just to shake the world trade order but to help defend a congressional seat in Pennsylvania.

Some Republican strategists said Trump’s tariff threat appeared to be timed, at least in part, to sway voters in the steel country of Pennsylvania, including its 18th District where Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb are facing off.

In a special election on March 13, the two will vie to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned in October in a sex scandal. If Saccone loses, it would be a blow to Trump, the first loss by Republicans of a seat in the House of Representatives since he took office in January 2017. The results will not affect Republican control of the chamber.

Trump has endorsed Saccone and is scheduled to visit the Pittsburgh area on Saturday for a campaign event. Saccone met Trump on arrival for a similar event in January.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Trump’s stance on steel and aluminum tariffs could help Republicans, not only in southwestern Pennsylvania, but across the industrial Midwest.

“The timing definitely helps Saccone,” O’Connell said.

Read more from David Morgan and Roberta Rampton at Reuters

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Analysis & Political Strategy