As constant scold Josh Kraushaar points out, the GOP is in real trouble in the upcoming special election in PA-18 in ten days, looking at a tied race in a district Trump won by 20 points. Trump is now betting the future of the GOP on the past: ugly trade wars and protectionism.
Here’s how tricky things have gotten for Republicans: GOP outside groups have dramatically scaled back their ads promoting the party’s tax cut, with the messaging barely moving the needle in the district’s working-class confines. The latest round of advertisements focus on law-and-order issues, like immigration and crime. A new spot from the Paul Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC slams Lamb for supporting “amnesty to illegal immigrants” because he “worked in the Obama administration.” A National Republican Congressional Committee ad portrays Lamb as soft on crime because he negotiated a plea deal with a notorious drug kingpin during his tenure as a federal prosecutor. These culture-war ads are reminiscent of those run by Ed Gillespie in his failed Virginia gubernatorial campaign, and they carry the whiff of desperation.
Meanwhile, Republicans are sufficiently concerned about the energy from the Democratic base that CLF is distributing a mailer in suburban precincts of Allegheny County “thanking” Lamb for supporting gun rights. It’s a cynical attempt to dampen Democratic enthusiasm for his campaign. The mailer, first reported by The Washington Post, underscores how even in a district where Second Amendment support is strong, gun control has become a fresh rallying cry for a supercharged Democratic electorate post-Parkland.
In another warning sign for Republicans, there are indications that conservative-minded voters in this district value government entitlements as much as tax cuts. Lamb’s rebuttal to the GOP tax-cut argument was that he supported “middle-class tax cuts” but not ones that could lead to cuts to Social Security and Medicare. In an acknowledgment that the Democratic message resonated, a new CLF ad turns the tables and accuses Pelosi of supporting “massive Medicare cuts” while arguing that Lamb “won’t protect seniors.” As Republicans learned in the 2016 presidential campaign, the agenda backed by GOP donors doesn’t necessarily jibe with the issues that the GOP rank-and-file cares about—especially in a blue-collar district like this one.
Republicans are eager to pin a disappointing result in this election on their candidate—state Rep. Rick Saccone—but the reality is the race is being defined on Trump’s terms. Saccone is running as an unapologetic Trump supporter, calling himself the president’s “wingman” in an interview with National Journal last month. Trump will be campaigning for Saccone on March 10, and he is likely to promote his newly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. It’s a protectionist position that Saccone quickly embraced, and one that is popular with the district’s sizable union membership.
This southwest Pennsylvania district is about as Trumpian as it gets: racially homogeneous, predominantly blue-collar, and filled with energy workers revolutionizing the region’s economy. To Lamb’s credit, he’s run a disciplined campaign and staked out moderate views on guns and fracking that have distinguished him from typical Democrats. But if Republicans can’t hold onto this seat with more than $9 million of outside GOP money invested here, it will serve as an awfully rude awakening to what’s likely to come for the midterms.
Trump clearly believes steel and Aluminum tariffs will "make America great again" and in the short run it's going to help, it may even be enough to save the GOP in PA-18 (and hey, Trump's said he'd do a lot of things that he hasn't bothered to actually do yet.)
But if he goes through on these tariffs, the odds of us crashing into a depression get exponentially higher. It might save Trump's neck but everyone else, including the Rust Belt, will pay dearly. At least one Trump cabinet member is very loudly saying that the tariffs will happen.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Sunday said he has no reason to believe President Donald Trump will reverse his controversial tariff announcement this week, but left room for the often unpredictable president to change his mind.
“Whatever his final decision is, is what will happen,” Ross said on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.” “What he has said he has said; if he says something different, it'll be something different.”
“The president has announced that this will happen this week. I have no reason to think otherwise," Ross added.
Trump announced a plan Thursday to impose a tariff of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum, which sent the stock market into a tumble and sparked fierce pushback from numerous Republicans in Congress amid international fears over a trade war.
Some United States trading partners have threatened retaliation, but Ross indicated that wasn't a concern. He did not say whether any nations could get an exception.
"Retaliation isn't going to change the price of a can of beer," he said. "It isn't going to change the price of a car. It's just not going to."
The GOP just bet their entire political future on the above sentence.