Sunday, March 11, 2018
MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa.
President Donald Trump told western Pennsylvania voters Saturday night that his new tariffs were saving the steel industry and urged them to send a Republican to the House so he can keep delivering those kinds of results.
The president lent his weight to Republican Rick Saccone in the final days of a surprisingly competitive special election outside Pittsburgh that could reverberate nationally ahead of the November midterm elections.
“We need our Congressman Saccone,” Trump said, unabashedly framing the race as a tune-up for the GOP’s efforts to maintain its control of Capitol Hill. Hitting peak campaign mode for himself, he revived many of his favorite 2016 riffs and even touted his planned 2020 slogan, “Keep America Great!”
But, the president warned, “we can only do that if we elect people who are going to back our agenda,” repeatedly urging his backers to support Saccone and stave off an upset by Democrat Conor Lamb in a district the president won by 20 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.
“The people of Pittsburgh cannot be conned by this guy Lamb,” Trump said, dismissing Lamb’s efforts to run as a moderate Democrat. “He’s never going to vote for us. He can say, ‘I love President Trump.’ ... I don’t want to meet him. I might like him.”
Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to claim a House majority. A victory in such a Republican-leaning district would boost their hopes and renew GOP concerns of a bad November.
Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine veteran and former prosecutor, has positioned himself as more representative of the district than Saccone, a 60-year-old state lawmaker. Lamb touts his resume and declares that he wouldn’t vote for Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi as party leader. He also avoids criticizing Trump.
Trump conceded Lamb might not back Pelosi but said most House Democrats will. And if Pelosi were in charge of the House, Trump said, Lamb would simply “vote the party line.”
While Trump was ostensibly in Pennsylvania for Saccone, the rally was as much about the president as it was an underperforming congressional candidate. The president repeatedly reminisced about his election, when Pennsylvania helped put him over the top after decades of landing in the Democrats’ column.
The president criticized Democrats for blocking his long-promised border wall and attacked so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. He also called for harsher punishments for drug dealers, including the death penalty, pointing to China and Singapore as models