Why Pennsylvania's Special Election Could Swing Blue

March 9, 2018

The historically Republican District 18 of Pennsylvania could swing blue in Tuesday’s special election, according to Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor at political website Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Democratic candidate Conor Lamb is “a good fit culturally for the district,” he told Cheddar, citing Lamb’s military background and moderate views on issues like abortion and guns.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate Rick Saccone “is a standard economic conservative,” said Kondik, which doesn’t necessarily sit well with the largely blue-collar residents of the district.

The race in the 18th District is shaping up as a potential bellwether for the midterm elections in November. President Trump carried the district by 20 points in 2016, and a Democratic win there would be a huge blow to him and to the GOP.

As a sign of how critical the party and the White House view the race, Trump will travel to the district on Saturday for a Saccone campaign rally. Friday afternoon, the president tweeted: Look forward to being in Pennsylvania tomorrow in support of Rick @Saccone4PA18. Big crowd expected in Moon Township. Vote Rick and see you there! #MAGA

Several weeks ago, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter campaigned with Saccone, and on Monday, Donald Trump Jr. will campaign with the Republican.

To regain control of the house, Democrats need to win 24 seats now held by the GOP. And many political experts believe the party has a good chance, particularly given the historic tendency of the party that controls the White House to lose seats in Congress during the midterms.

“Generally, the party that holds the White House pays a penalty down the ballot, particularly in special elections like we’re seeing in Pennsylvania on Tuesday,” Kondik said.

“Turnout is always significantly lower than a presidential election,” explained Kondik. “The out-party is sometimes more motivated to show up to vote.” On top of that, President Trump’s overall approval rating is hovering at a meager 40 percent.

Kondik also pointed out that the district, largely composed of the southern suburbs of Pittsburgh, has a demographic makeup that veers from Trump’s base.

Voters generally have higher-than-average incomes and higher-than-average educational attainment. “It’s a Trump district, but it’s also full of voters who are sort of skeptical of Trump even though they voted for him.”

The special election was called after Rep. Patrick Murphy resigned amid reports that he had encouraged his lover to have an abortion despite his strong anti-abortion stance.

“It’s a true toss up, which is kind of crazy in and of itself,” said Kondik.

For the full interview, click here.