In tight Pa. House race, Republican leans on Trump and his base

Rick Saccone Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district takes questions form reporters last week in Pittsburgh. Saccone has needed millions of dollars in spending from Republican allies to stave off the strong challenge fro

US President Donald Trump (right) with Pennsylvania Republican Congressional candidate Rick Saccone during a campaign rally at Atlantic Aviation in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.

But, the president warned, "we can only do that if we elect people who are going to back our agenda", repeatedly urging his backers to support Saccone and stave off an upset by Democrat Conor Lamb in a district the president won by 20 percentage points over Hillary Clinton. The 33-year-old Lamb pitches himself as an independent-minded Democrat who opposes sweeping gun restrictions, endorses Trump's new steel tariffs, and tells voters he won't back Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California for speaker.

"We're saving the steel, and a lot of steel mills are now opening up because of what I did", Trump said.

A Saccone loss would be the first loss of a Republican seat in the House of Representatives since Mr Trump took office, although Republicans would still have control of the chamber.

Trump tweeted Monday about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's backing of state lawmaker Rick Saccone for Congress. Trump says Saccone "will be much better for steel and business". Trump campaigned for Saccone in Pennsylvania on Saturday night.

Saccone, 60, has emphasized his experience as a state legislator and Air Force veteran who's worked in North Korea and South Korea.

In order to make up the 20 point differential from 2016, Lamb would likely need to outperform Clinton in nearly every type of district, not only doing better than Clinton did against Trump in the bluest areas but also doing significantly better in the reddest areas and breaking near even with the Republican in the more moderate, average parts of the district where Trump in 2016 won by around 20-21 points.

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Lamb keeps to party orthodoxy on unions.

He blasts the new Republican tax law as a gift to the wealthy and a threat to Social Security and Medicare. "He's a Marine", Kortz said.

But while both sides have decided that the race is worth digging deep into their pocketbooks, the fact remains that, unlike Virginia and part of Georgia where candidates also went head to head past year, this area in Pennsylvania voted solidly and overwhelmingly Republican in 2016. "He's good with the Second Amendment". "Thank you, and God bless the United States of America".

The party didn't even run opponents against the previous congressman, Republican Tim Murphy, in 2014 and 2016.

Republicans have tried to paint Lamb as a lackey for national Democrats who are unpopular in the district. Murphy resigned in October amid a sex scandal.

The Republican argument is enough for voters like 54-year-old Jeffrey Snelling.

"And Conor Lamb - Lamb the Sham - he's trying to act like a Republican", Trump said. "I'm a supporter of the death penalty, but only when in those type of instance where we absolutely are 100 percent certain that the person is 100 percent guilty". Then, after Moore won the primary despite multiple sexual assault allegations, Trump endorsed Moore - but hedged once again before the special election, holding a December rally not in Alabama but a few miles across the border in Pensacola, Florida. "He's going to vote the party line".


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