With the 2018 midterm congressional elections looming and some polling indicating the GOP could be facing the kind of beat down the party which controls the White House almost routinely endures, the eyes of the political world turned to the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thanks to the self-immolation of disgraced Representative Tim Murphy, PA’s 18th District was up for grabs in a special election all the cool kids swear is a bellwether for this fall’s off-season electoral tilt.
But the 18th is an unusual place. Considered a “safe” space for the GOP, President Donald Trump carried it by 20 points during his historic 2016 defeat of Hillary Clinton. It’s a blue-collar place, filled with hardworking, God-fearing, gun-owning people, steeped in the history of the heavy industries which made western Pennsylvania the home of the “Steel City.” If the Democrats wanted to make the PA-18 special election a special preview of the upcoming main event, they needed a special kind of candidate, one who can appeal to the people the Democrats have spent the last decade or so blaming for everything that ails America. They needed a change-up, a new direction, a game-changer. They needed a Republican.
Enter Conor Lamb. That world-shaking upset the Democrats have been crowing about since Tuesday night, when Lamb edged Rick Saccone by a margin thinner than a Bill Clinton excuse, may not have been the warmup act they were hoping for. Lamb is a Democrat, but remove the “D” from after his name, and he’s a pro-gun rights, pro-Christianity, pro-life, squared-away Marine. His endorsement of the Planned Parenthood holocaust goes no further than a tacit agreement not to vote to destroy Roe v. Wade, with the caveat that he personally deplores abortion. He went into the election promising to vote against the Democrats’ Bloody Mary, Nancy Pelosi, as leader of the House Democrats, whether a majority or minority. His campaign ads even feature him firing his personal AR-15.
Congratulations, Democrats. To kick-start a blue wave in a red district, you came up with a candidate who’s barely purple. And it’s not as if Lamb knocked out a Republican superstar. While PA-18 may have been considered a “safe” republican district, the Republican candidate, Saccone, was as exciting as a glass of warm milk. As if the Democrats celebrating a “DINO” beating a “RINO” isn’t enough of a headscratcher, the “DINO” beat the “RINO” for a seat that won’t exist soon. Thanks to a recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling the 18th a gerrymandered abomination, Lamb will have to defend his title in eight months, this time, in a district which may be even redder, and will be about 75 percent new to him.
Blue will probably trump red this fall, although I’d caution against expecting the tidal wave the Democrats are promising. If they’re basing their confidence on Lamb beating Saccone, they might want to pump the brakes. I suppose I should give them some credit, they do seem to have learned their lesson from that Jon Ossoff debacle in Georgia’s 6th. But learning that pencil-necked beta males make for poor candidates in districts in which most of the boys’ balls have dropped doesn’t help all that much when most of your candidates are designed to appeal to pencil-necked beta males with undescended testicles. Lamb may be a winner, but he’s an outlier inside the Democrat machine. The Democrats won PA-18. But it’s a “little w” win.
— Ben Crystal