There's no doubt part of the problem for the GOP in PA-18 is the national political climate. During January, following the passage of the tax cut bill, Republicans had cut Democrats' lead in generic congressional ballot polls in half. But during February, Democrats' lead has returned to close to double digits, a turnaround that was in progress before the Parkland school shootings.
However, the climate alone wouldn't be enough to push a district as Republican as the 18th CD into the Toss Up column. After all, Trump is still a net asset to the GOP here, and Nancy Pelosi is unpopular. What's made the race so close, many Republicans admit, is that Lamb has simply proven to be a stronger candidate than Saccone.
As a 33-year-old veteran from a prominent Irish-Catholic Pittsburgh political family, Lamb is well-positioned to tap into Western Pennsylvania's ancestral Democratic roots (Democrats still enjoy a slight voter registration edge in the 18th). He emphasizes protecting Social Security and Medicare from cuts, says he won't support Pelosi and talks about strengthening background checks without calling for new gun laws.
Saccone, a 60-year-old mustachioed former Air Force counter-intelligence officer, hasn't made any major blunders. But he hasn't raised the resources to tell voters his life story as effectively as Lamb, and after seven years in Harrisburg, he can't credibly run as a political outsider. Moreover, Saccone's votes for right-to-work legislation have angered unions, still an important constituency in this part of the state.
Former GOP Rep. Tim Murphy, who won eight elections here before resigning in October upon the disclosure of an extra-marital affair, had solid working relationships with labor groups and routinely won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO. In this race, the state AFL-CIO chapter has snubbed the Republican and endorsed Lamb.
Yes, in a district where Donald Trump won by 20 points, the Democrat is running away from Nancy Pelosi. Blue Dogs do that. Not every constituency looks like Nancy Pelosi's district in San Francisco, but every House district in the country has Democrats in it somewhere who want to be represented by Dems and vote for them every election.
I'd move heaven and earth to have Conor Lamb here in KY-4 to take Tom Massie's ass down, his grousing about Pelosi and NRA support aside, because as much as you guys may not like Blue Dogs, a lot of us live in red states where 2018 means the Blue Dog or the Trump-supporting Republican asshole who wants to destroy the place completely.
I'll take the Blue Dog every single time. I'm going to root for the Democrat in the race, thanks.