GOP Hopes Tax Cut Bill is Sweet Spot in Western Pennsylvania

Sen. Scott Jensen & Sen. Paul Anderson

Regardless of Tuesday's outcome, the race has highlighted a central challenge for Republican candidates in 2018: how to embrace the more popular parts of Trump's record while distancing themselves from the president's less popular policies and controversial rhetoric.

DETROW: And he told the crowd he needs Republicans to do it. Democrat Conor Lamb may be conservative, Trump said.

It's left the GOP bracing for what would be its most embarrassing - and ominous - loss since Donald Trump took office. "He's never going to vote for us". A solid Republican showing for Lamb would be a rebuke to Trump, who campaigned for Saccone in the district over the weekend. I don't want to meet him.

If Lamb wins, the magic number that Democrats need to take back the House in the fall will drop from 24 to 23.

Tuesday's election is being watched as a potential harbinger for November's congressional elections.

Trump also said that the country should discuss having drug dealers face the death penalty, as they do in China and elsewhere because they are responsible for thousands of deaths.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm very presidential. They've painted Lamb as a lackey of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and weak on immigration. And if Pelosi were in charge of the House, Trump said, Lamb would simply "vote the party line".

Trump tweeted Monday about the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's backing of state lawmaker Rick Saccone for Congress. Trump says Saccone "will be much better for steel and business".

Polls close at 8 p.m. EDT in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, is running as a centrist Democrat.

Of course, Trump's performance was similar to something he's done at previous rallies during campaigns, such as when he endorsed Luther Strange in last year's Alabama Senate primary but then hedged ("I might have made a mistake") when it appeared Strange would lose to Roy Moore. He singled out NBC's Chuck Todd as a "sleeping son of a bitch". They also are largely unmoved by his announcement of tariffs for foreign steel and aluminum. Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District has an estimated 17,000 steelworkers and nearly 90,000 voters from union households.

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"We are the guys creating jobs", he said.

Lamb, however, keeps to party orthodoxy on unions. He sidestepped the fact that most of his own party's leaders oppose tariffs, as well. "We need more people like that in Congress on both sides of the aisle".

A recent analysis by The Washington Post showed Republican-allied groups have outspent Democrats by more than $9 million on the race by the end of February.

If he loses, it could foreshadow what is already expected to be a hard midterm election cycle for Republicans.

The Pennsylvania special election is to replace Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned previous year amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which the anti-abortion lawmaker urged his mistress to get an abortion when he thought she was pregnant.

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

Boasting a more than 3-to-1 fundraising advantage over Saccone, Lamb has plastered his message on Pittsburgh television and animated Democrats who haven't had recent reason to care.

Trump acknowledged those dynamics, noting talk of Lamb as a handsome candidate.

In the week since these two polls were conducted, three events have occurred that are likely to move the needle towards Republican Saccone. He rambled for over an hour about a wide variety of topics that didn't do anything to help Rick Saccone.

"Bring your friends and family, drag them out", he told hair-netted employees boxing up chocolate for Easter.

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