Rep. Joe Kennedy on Why Penn.'s Special Election May Swing Blue

Pennsylvania Republicans Warn Trump to 'Stay Away' During Mid-Terms

A dependably red swatch of southwest Pennsylvania could fall after Tuesday's vote to a 33-year-old Democrat who has never held elected office.

Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb will face off Tuesday in a closely watched special election to replace former Rep. Tim Murphy.

Despite the uncertain future of the district, national organizations have been spending big money on the special election.

President Donald Trump won Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District by close to 20 points in 2016, but Republicans have been bracing for a Democratic upset for several weeks as polls by Monmouth University and other organizations have shown the race teetering back and forth, with Lamb and Saccone alternately shown to have a small lead.

Republicans have been hoping that the passage of their massive tax cuts and the climbing stock market numbers would help override some of Trump's low popularity numbers.

Retired coal miner David Fibazzo, left, of Coal Centre, places his hat on top of Democratic candidate Conor Lamb's head during a rally with the United Mine Workers of America.

He is among a chorus of conservatives casting Saccone's candidacy as underwhelming.

Republicans said that the surge of drama in what they had expected to be a relatively sleepy race has revealed significant issues nationally for Trump and the party. On Monday morning, the Associated Press had reported that Trump had a previously undisclosed relationship with an influential businessman who had lobbied the administration.

Given the size of the president's 2016 majority, Saccone can afford to lose some of Trump's base.

Saccone, 60, of Elizabeth, is a member of the state House of Representatives.

Will Republicans will cross party lines? A narrow win would still be alarming.

The longer-term prize is the House of Representatives. But Lamb, deflecting attempts to call him a lackey for Nancy Pelosi, says he won't support the liberal San Franciscan to remain House Democratic leader.

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As a former Marine and federal prosecutor, he carries military and law-and-order bona fides. He says he is a proud Catholic who opposes abortion but doesn't believe his personal views should impact legislation.

A key difference between Murphy and Saccone: Murphy tended to have labor union support.

Congressional candidate Rick Saccone has struggled more than Republicans in southwest Pennsylvania usually do. "That's the kind of candidate, the kind of campaign, that Democrats might try to imitate moving forward". "And I'll tell you some more - my wife and I saw it again today - they have a hatred for God".

"We're out meeting people every day and everywhere I get it's 100 to 1 for Rick Saccone", Saccone said. She dismissed Lamb with the nickname the president had given him on Saturday night: "Lamb the Sham".

Will Lamb's centrist approach resonate?

. That fact alone is bad news for Republicans, who have easily carried this suburban Pittsburgh district for years.

But that, by itself, hasn't given Saccone much traction against Lamb, who hails from an established Allegheny County political family and pitches himself as independent-minded.

They said he was going door-to-door, trying to meet as many voters as possible. "They need you to be fully dependent on them", he said.

Pennsylvania's 18th is, in some respects, archetypal Trump Country. The victor on Tuesday will, if he jumps back in, be running for a different seat come November, perhaps in the state's newly drawn 14th or 17th districts.

A victory for either candidate will probably be short lived. A proposed redistricting map drawn by the state Supreme Court shows the 14th District swallowing much of the territory now occupied by the 18th.

Both parties would nevertheless benefit from a talking point going into November's midterms.

"We could have done that without adding a penny to the debt", he said. "But [Democrats] need some 20-odd seats to take back the House, and they need seats like this".

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