It was jeer and sneer time for the mainstream media after Conor Lamb defeated Rick Saccone in the special election for Pennsylvania’s soon-to-be-defunct 18th Congressional District.
“For someone who talks so much about winning, President Donald Trump is racking up quite the losing streak,” wrote CNN. “The electoral earthquake in Pennsylvania … from a district Trump won by 20 points in 2016 is sparking new questions about the president’s personal political potency.”
Saccone was not the first candidate to fall victim to the Trump curse, CNN said.
“Trump-backed candidates Luther Strange, Roy Moore and Ed Gillespie also tanked in Senate and gubernatorial races in Alabama and Virginia.”
“Those busted endorsements suggest that for all his mystical connection with his base, Trump is not necessarily an asset for GOP candidates in special elections,” CNN wrote. “They may also be a sign that the president will be more of a liability than an asset for Republicans come midterm elections in November.”
The Washington Post was just as gleeful.
“A stunning setback in a reliably Republican Pennsylvania congressional district has unnerved many GOP elected officials, who are bracing for a potential Democratic wave in the mid-term elections without any proven strategy to fight back.
“Publicly, party leaders tried to cast the special election as a fluke, won by an idiosyncratic Democrat who ran to the right. But privately, strategists, donors and elected officials expressed alarm, with the November mid-terms looming. “Horrid” was how one Republican in frequent contact with lawmakers described the political outlook.”
CNN acknowledged that Democrats ran a candidate on a formula that won’t be easy to replicate elsewhere. Lamb is an attractive former Marine in his 30s who has made his name as a law-and-order prosecutor. He had promised to not vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker if elected, and he did not campaign on gun control in rural southwest Pennsylvania.
Saccone is a state senator and former Air Force officer in his mid-50s who Republicans said ran a bad campaign.
“The relative talents of Saccone and Lamb are among many factors – local, national and demographic – that help explain Tuesday’s voting,” CNN wrote. “But the unpopularity of the president and the fact that he had traveled to the district Saturday to offer his endorsement, albeit in a typically wild and rambling rally, inevitably mean he’s getting his share of criticism.”
Trump’s rally was probably “a little bit too little too late,” said Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill.
Trump both hurt and helped Saccone, CNN said, leaving open the question of why he is to blame for Saccone’s loss.
“[Trump’s] historically poor approval rating is clearly pulling down all Republican candidates,” CNN wrote. “The chaos in governance that the president is fomenting and his alpha male brand of leadership may also help explain his plummet among white female voters, who can be crucial in suburban areas.”
Trump’s policy choices aren’t playing well either, CNN suggested, going against polling data. “It might also concern Trump and his political handlers that his twin message of tax cuts and tariffs – tailored to the former industrial heartland of Pennsylvania – couldn’t drive Saccone to victory despite his own liabilities.”
The Post acknowledged the Republican strategy of pushing tax cuts and opposition to Nancy Pelosi succeeded in making the race closer than it was and that polls moved favor of Saccone after the president’s rally. But it kept coming back to the other narrative – that this was the beginning of a blue wave.
“Republicans had worked for months to turn the House race in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District into a demonstration of GOP staying power, deploying their best messaging ideas, spending more than $10 million and receiving the full backing of Trump in a district where he polls over 50 percent,” the Post wrote.
“None of it worked, and the apparent loss has left the party without a clear Plan B just eight months before midterm elections that threaten to give Democrats control of the House, if not the Senate as well.”
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