If you’re a Republican, the fun never ends. The scabs haven’t even fallen off of the bite marks in their collective ass after the Roy Moore Alabama debacle yet, and already they have another looming electoral crisis on the horizon. And this one could have a serious impact on the 2018 congressional map.
Poor Tim Murphy had to give up his safe seat in GOP leaning Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional district. Turns out that while publicly the lad may have been a vocal anti abortion zealot, when it came to him personally, not so much. He allegedly encouraged a lover to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and had to hang his head and resign. And that lurid saga is giving the Republicans an industrial strength case of indigestion.
Forget about Alabama for the moment. Trump won this district by 20 points last November. But as Politico points out, in the four House special elections that have been held since Trump took office, unsuccessful Democratic challengers have overperformed Republican opponents by at least 20 points in every single race. That doesn’t even include flipping all of those state seats in Virginia, or the fact that in six state special elections in Iowa since November 9th, the Democrats have outperformed Republicans by a minimum +30.
The news gets worse for Republicans. They love to brag that the House GOP has yet to lose a special election since Trump got elected, but what they don’t talk about is that they haven’t cracked the 54% mark in any of those elections, even in districts that Trump won with more than 60%. And they sure as hell don’t talk about the fact that their turnout numbers are languishing, while the Democrats are turning enthusiasm for whatever reason it exists into votes that are making these special elections much closer than they should be.
The GOP is also facing problems with their candidate, both in terms of image, and fundraising as well. Rick Saccone is a former military counter intelligence officer, but he has been known to brag that “He was Trump before Trump.” In this current climate, that is not necessarily a strong selling point for a candidate. Saccone is also causing the GOP to lose sleep over his fundraising. He is a state representative, with the attendant name recognition. 8 months ago he decided to run for the US Senate, and so far has only managed to bring in $70,000, not even %10,000 a month. That’s not chump change for a state district race, but already a troubling sign for a US House congressional race if the opponent is worthy. And his opponent is that.
Conor Lamb is a 33 year old marine veteran, who is also a former federal prosecutor who has political family name recognition in the area. What seems to be the major canary in the coal mine for Republicans is the evidence over and over again of Democratic candidates fundraising the pants off of even entrenched GOP incumbents, getting small money donations from all over the country. As for imaging, a GOP political operative put it perfectly according to the Politico article;
“Rick, with his age and experience, is more than qualified, but he isn’t the sparkle of everyone’s eye, while Conor is a tall, blonde, blue-eyed stud of a Marine,” said William J. Green, a political analyst on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. “There’s no question that Republicans are worried about the contrast.”
That really seems to be it in a nutshell. Voters are looking for a new face, a breath of fresh air, and Mr “I was Trump before Trump” may well not be it. A Conor Lamb win here would be a definite 5-11 fire alarm for McConnell and especially Ryan, since this is not a vulnerable GOP incumbent seat in a district where Hillary won the state. It is a supposedly “safe” seat in a district that Trump won by 20 points in a state that held to give him the electoral college. And Trump? Don’t bother him, if it isn’t on “Fox and Friends,” he won’t even know about it. Don’t touch that dial.