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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Lamb Campaign in PA-18 Special Election Tests Democratic Rust Belt Strategy

In her vox.com article “A Democrat getting outspent 17-1 is now neck and neck in deep-red Pennsylvania: “It’s enthusiasm I haven’t seen for a Democratic candidate for a long time” Ella Nilsen provides an update on Conor Lamb’s campaign. As Nilsen explains,

For the first time in nearly 15 years, Republicans in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District are starting to get nervous…On its face, the March 13 special congressional election in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania should be a breeze for the GOP. The Cook Political Report rates the district R+11 (due in part to partisan gerrymandering that the state Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional).

…Focused on recapturing blue-collar workers, Lamb’s campaign represents one school of thought — going back to labor-liberal economic values and working with unions to retake territory in Midwest and Rust Belt states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Others say the party must look to its future: voters of color and young people who represent its energized base, like it did to pull out a win for Doug Jones in Alabama’s December special election for US Senate.

Yet, “Republican and Democratic operatives in Pennsylvania agree on two things,” writes Nilsen. “Lamb is still very much the underdog in this race, but by getting support from unions that used to back Murphy and capitalizing on national Democratic enthusiasm, he has a fighting chance.” Also,

A recent Monmouth poll shows the Republican with a slight lead, hovering around 49 percent to 46 percent (models with lower turnout give Saccone a slightly larger lead). Given the steep odds, these numbers are extremely good for Lamb,” who is getting high marks for generating voter enthusiasm, while worried Republicans afre pouring money into defeating Lamb.

As for Lamb’s focus on key issues, Nilsen writes that Lamb’s platform addresses “jobs, protecting entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, organized labor, and helping end the heroin crisis currently ravaging the state…A practicing Catholic, he says that while he personally opposes abortion, he supports Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. As a veteran, he is also pro-Second Amendment.”

If Lamb has an edge going forward, it is likely from his strong support from labor unions. PA-18 includes 87,000 union members, including “energy workers,” building trades and teachers. Also, “Steelworkers are active, and although the district’s last coal mine recently closed down, tens of thousands of retired union coal workers and their spouses remain in the area.” According estimates, they could make up 20 to 30 percent of the electorate.

Lamb’s campaign is doing well in fund-raising. But so far Republicans have spent an estimated $4.7 on TV and radio ads, compared to the Lamb campaign’s $300K. Those who want to help the Democrat level the playing field can contribute to his campaign here.

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