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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

NYT’s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin share some campaign spending notes regarding Conor Lamb’s victory in PA-18: “Mr. Lamb raised $3.9 million and spent $3 million, compared with Mr. Saccone’s $900,000 raised and $600,000 spent as of Feb. 21. But Republican outside groups swamped the district. Between conservative “super PACs” and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Mr. Saccone had more than $14 million spent on his behalf…Mr. Lamb got just over $2 million.”

The Upshot is providing two revealing maps, which show which precincts of PA-18 Lamb and Saccone respectively won and which precincts went more Democratic than was the case in 2016. The second map shows zero precincts voting more Republican in 2018 and dozens of precincts voting more Democratic — which suggests that the case for a recount is weak indeed. Both maps provide hover charts, another good resource for social scientists to investigate a demographic breakdown of the vote.

In his post, “The ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ Could Turn A Democratic Wave Into A Tsunami” at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver writes that “there were signs of an enthusiasm gap even within Pennsylvania 18 on Tuesday night. According to the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, turnout in Democratic-leaning Allegheny County equaled 67 percent of presidential-year turnout, but voters turned out at only 60 percent of presidential levels in Republican-leaning Westmoreland County. That sort of turnout gap suggests that registered-voter polls could be underrating Democrats in this year’s midterms — and could turn a challenging year for Republicans into a catastrophic one.”

At ThinkProgress, Elham Khatami writes “Election night exit polling by Public Policy Polling found that among PA-18 voters who said health care was the most important issue, Democrat Conor Lamb beat Republican Rick Saccone by a margin of 64 to 36. Saccone’s support of the Republican health care agenda — namely, efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — made 41 percent of voters less likely to vote for him. Fifty-three percent of voters disapproved of GOP efforts to repeal the health care law and 48 percent believed Republicans are trying to sabotage the law since they failed to repeal it…as Forbes’ Bruce Japsen previously reported, health care is especially important in Western Pennsylvania. Although health care premiums have risen (a rise which officials in Pennsylvania attribute to Trump’s “refusal to make cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018”), the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) — the region’s largest non-governmental employer — has grown substantially under the ACA…Pennsylvanians — namely, those living in rural areas — have also benefited from the state’s Medicaid expansion under the ACA, which went into effect in 2015 and has been touted by health experts as means of addressing the state’s opioid crisis. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) declared the epidemic a statewide disaster emergency earlier this year…Voters sent the same message in Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November, when 67 percent of those who cast ballots said health care was the most important or a very important issue to them. Those individuals voted for Democrat Ralph Northam by a margin of 62 to 32.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic of Conor Lamb’s victory that “But the limits of his gains in the district’s mostly blue-collar areas—Westmoreland and Washington counties—underscore how far Democrats still have to go with these voters, and how difficult a slog it could be…The complex, narrowly divided outcome in Pennsylvania suggests that Republicans could face a stiffer challenge than they expected in at least some blue-collar and non-urban districts where Trump has remained relatively popular—places like upstate New York, downstate Illinois, and parts of Michigan and Iowa. But Lamb’s apparent win—which turned on big margins in Allegheny, the district’s county with the most college graduates—also suggests that the epicenter of Republican vulnerability will remain the suburban white-collar districts most visibly alienated from Trump.”

Also, adds Brownstein, “Southwest Pennsylvania was an early center of the movement away from Democrats among blue-collar whites. Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 carried both Westmoreland and Washington, two preponderantly white counties in the district with relatively few college graduates. Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 each held Washington but lost Westmoreland. Obama and Hillary Clinton then lost both of them in 2008, 2012, and 2016. In fact, the GOP has won a higher share of the vote in Westmoreland than it did four years earlier in each presidential election since 1992, and it has improved in Washington all but once. Trump topped 60 percent in both…Lamb clawed back some of those losses, with Saccone carrying 57 percent in Westmoreland and 53 percent in Washington—majorities, but not blowouts. That suggests Lamb ran more competitively among blue-collar whites than Democrats did in earlier high-profile Trump-era contests, such as last year’s governor’s race in Virginia and special Senate election in Alabama. There, exit polls showed the GOP candidates carrying over 70 percent of whites without a college degree each time. Still, the results hardly signal a collapse in the GOP’s blue-collar foundation.”

The United Mine Workers of America strongly supported Conor Lamb, and here’s their take on the PA-18 election: “…One issue that clearly stands out is solving the multi-employer pension crisis…Saccone ducked the issue when asked to address it by reporters…PA-18 demonstrates that voters who fear for retirement security will blur partisan lines to support candidates they believe have their backs…“You elect this man to Congress, and you won’t have to lobby him one minute,” said [UMWA President Cecil] Roberts at a recent campaign rally for Lamb. “He’s for your pensions, he’s for your union, he’s for your health care. This is a ‘yes’ vote.”…In the wake of Lamb’s victory last night, Roberts noted that, “a lot of our members who didn’t vote in the last election or voted for President Trump came out and voted for the one candidate who was clear about standing up for their pensions and their retirement security.”

Looking ahead, Geoffrey Skelley notes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “As things stand, two other congressional districts will have special elections before the 2018 midterm election: AZ-8 on April 24 and OH-12 on Aug. 7.[2] Based on the 2016 election, the presidential lean of the two districts favors Republicans — R +24.5 in AZ-8 and R +14.1 in OH-12. However, if the swings in those contests follow the average swing during the Trump era (D +13.7), they will be competitive races. This is particularly true of OH-12, which would see its Republican lean essentially neutralized by the average swing in congressional contests. The PA-18 result should scare Republicans, but if the GOP loses OH-12 just three months before the midterm election, those fears will grow exponentially.”

Here’s an ad for Democratic candidate, Dr.Hiral Tipirneni, who is running in AZ-8 (ActBlue page here):

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