Pennsylvania election to be a test of pre-midterm Democratic appeal

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On Tuesday, voters in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District will go to the polls to elect a new member of Congress.

The outcome Tuesday of 2018's first congressional election is being closely watched as a key test of support for Republicans ahead of November's midterms.

Lamb's level of GOP support will also be interesting for another reason: it will offer a clue about how Republicans in a stalwart GOP district feel about the direction of the country under Trump. "It would mark an extraordinary swing from Trump's almost 20-point victory here in 2016 if he could hold on to win".

Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats to claim a House majority.

High profile Republicans - including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence - have rallied around State Rep. Rick Saccone, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran, to help shore up his bid to win the House seat in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District special election.

"He's a Marine", Bill Kortz, a former steel worker and a Democratic state lawmaker, said.

On Saturday night, President Donald Trump, who won the district's vote by 20 points in 2016, traveled to western Pennsylvania to campaign for Saccone.

The president told Saccone supporters last weekend that Lamb is trying to con them.

Since taking office, Trump has been an active campaigner for Republicans in primaries and special elections, with mixed results. If that number ticks up for Lamb on Election Day and he wins over more Republicans, he wouldn't need as many Democrats to beat Saccone.

"He shares my values", DeFelice said Sunday. "He's good with guns". "We need Republicans. We need the vote", Trump said, saying Democrats would take away, among other things, "your Second Amendment rights" to have guns.

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Most independent analyses rate the race between Democrat Connor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone as a toss-up, with differing polls giving each candidate a three-point lead.

Lamb, however, keeps to party orthodoxy on unions in a district with a long history of coal mining and steel-making.

He blasts the new Republican tax law as a gift to the wealthy and paints congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, as a threat to Social Security and Medicare.

At the Lamb rally, Cecil Roberts, the president of the United Mineworkers of America, delivered a rousing endorsement of Lamb, a noteworthy endorsement since the union sat out the 2016 election rather than back Clinton in 2016. This is a big change from polling taken in February and January that showed Saccone with a comfortable lead that was more consistent with the Republican nature of the district, but it's worth noting that those polls were taken before outside money began pouring into the race and before the race became the focus of national attention.

The party didn't even run opponents against the previous congressman, Republican Tim Murphy, in 2014 and 2016. Murphy announced his resignation in October 2017, following reports that he encouraged a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair to have an abortion.

It is a contest that is seen as a bellwether for the 2018 midterms and the latest referendum on the political impact of Trump's presidency. Neither Lamb nor Saccone has made the ongoing Russian Federation investigation bedeviling Trump part of his pitch, but the paper insisted the country must not "dive into so great a distraction".

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

Still, it remains unclear how much Saccone will benefit from Trump's policies, especially on the issue of trade and the new tariffs. His bottom line, though: "I'm not voting for any liberal who's going to advance the Democratic Party agenda".

Levy reported from Waynesburg, Pennsylvania.

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