FINAL PITCHES


Pennsylvania congressional race enters homestretch

Associated Press

CANONSBURG, Pa.

The final day of campaigning Monday before votes are cast in Pennsylvania’s closely watched congressional election drew a visit by Donald Trump Jr. and lots of door-knocking all over the southwestern district where polls show a close race.

President Donald Trump tweeted about “steel and business” in a final push to sway voters, and Donald Trump Jr., visiting a candy-making business, touted Republican Rick Saccone as someone who will be “helping fight with my father” for jobs to come back from overseas.

Saccone, a 60-year-old state lawmaker, has struggled with an electorate that favored Trump by nearly 20 percentage points just 16 months ago. He’s up against 33-year-old Conor Lamb, who pitches himself as an independent-minded Democrat.

Trump Jr., eating ice cream with Saccone at Sarris Candies in front of dozens of cameras, said Trump supporters “gotta stay in the game; they gotta stay motivated.”

“Our guys just can’t take winning for granted,” Trump Jr. said. “They have to get out there. They have to continue this fight, now, for the rest of ’18, in ’20, and in eight years we can make a big difference. They just can’t be lazy. They’ve gotta get out and vote, and if they get out and vote, we win easily.”

The outcome today of 2018’s first congressional election is being closely watched as a key test of support for Republicans ahead of November’s midterms. Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats to claim a House majority, and an upset will embolden them as they look to win in places where the party has lost ground in recent decades.

Republicans, meanwhile, would be spooked about their prospects in this tempestuous era of Trump, who most recently visited Saturday night on Saccone’s behalf.

Trump Jr. was the latest in a line of national pro-Trump figures to appear with Saccone, a strong Trump supporter who boasts one of the most conservative voting records in Pennsylvania’s Legislature.

But that hasn’t given Saccone much traction against Lamb, a Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor in a district with influential labor unions and a long history of coal mining and steel-making.

Lamb has crystallized the debate over whether a younger, charismatic Democrat appealing to win back traditionally Democratic voters can overcome Republican party loyalty in a GOP-leaning district at a time when Trump remains a divisive figure.

A poll released Monday by Monmouth University shows Lamb at 51 percent and Saccone at 45 percent, a district previously held by former eight-term Republican Rep. Tim Murphy.

Pollsters interviewed 372 likely voters by telephone from March 8-11. The sampling margin of error was plus or minus 5.1 percentage points.

The seat is open after Murphy resigned amid the revelation that the strongly anti-abortion lawmaker had urged a woman with whom he was having an affair to get an abortion when they thought she might be pregnant.

A key difference between Murphy and Saccone: Murphy tended to have labor union support. Saccone does not.

GOP and Trump-aligned groups have spent more than $10 million to prop up Saccone and have painted Lamb as a lackey of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and weak on immigration.

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