When Tim Murphy (R-PA) resigned his House seat after it came out that he’d asked a mistress to have an abortion, Republicans had little fear that the party would lose his seat in a March 13 special election. Pennsylvania’s 18th district, outside the Pittsburgh area, has traditionally been deep red, and went for Trump by 19 points in the 2016 election. It didn’t seem feasible that a Democrat could swing the seat, even after the Murphy scandal.
But in recent weeks, several bad omens have been emerging. For one thing, 33-year-old Democratic candidate Connor Lamb, a veteran, out-raised Republican Rick Saccone by a factor of four, pulling in $3.8 million to less than $1 million for his opponent. Polls in the past month have been tighter than expected too, and in the most recent Emerson poll, Lamb actually leads by three points. According to the Wall Street Journal, this has sent national Republicans into a panic:
GOP-affiliated groups—including the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm; the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan ; the Republican National Committee; and two pro-Trump PACs, 45Committee and America First Action—have poured about $9.1 million into the Pittsburgh-area race, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Donald Trump has even scheduled a rally near the district just days before the March 13 election. As the WSJ outlines, and as we’ve written before, the GOP’s 24-seat majority in the House looks to be in real trouble, and Republicans are plugging the holes in the battleship far ahead of the midterms. A race like this one, which would be an afterthought in a normal year, now looks like a harbinger of things to come, and both sides are fighting furiously to win.