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Next Special Election: Pennsylvania’s 18th District

For all the noise about the Alabama election, it’s the only Dem win out of the armful of special elections for national seats during 2017. If you’re exhausted about all the hype and hyperbole, too bad. We have another special election coming up. This time, in Pennsylvania, as Business Insider reports.

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Pennsylvania will hold a special election March 13 to complete the term of disgraced Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, an anti-abortion lawmaker who resigned after his hometown newspaper revealed he had suggested a mistress get an abortion when they thought she might be pregnant.. .

Following the 2000 census, state Republican lawmakers first tailored the district’s boundaries for Murphy, carving it out of the shrinking population of southwestern Pennsylvania districts represented by Democrats. . .Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton there by a 3-2 ratio in last year’s presidential election.

Let’s begin this time by reporting the current betting odds. At the time of this writing, the Republican is given a 69% chance of winning. That’s better than two-to-one odds.

The Washington Times describes the GOP candidate.

Republicans in Pennsylvania have chosen state Rep. Rick Saccone. . .59, a retired Air Force captain and staunch conservative, was chosen Saturday for the March 13 special election, prevailing after two rounds of voting over state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler and state Sen. Kim Ward. State Rep. Jason Ortitay withdrew prior to the balloting. . .

Saccone has been prominent in the fight to expand gun rights and the role of religion in public life and sponsored legislation to declare 2012 the Year of the Bible in Pennsylvania. An opponent of abortion rights, he has drawn the support of religious conservatives.

Because of that background, Democrats are already comparing Saccone with Alabama’s Roy Moore, according to the Washington Examiner.

Two minutes after Rick Saccone secured his place on the Republican ballot for the special election to replace Rep. Tim Murphy in the 18th Congressional District in Western Pennsylvania. . .Democrats. . .sent out a press release stating Saccone was no different [from] the highly controversial Alabama Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

NewsMax notes that Saccone is also like Moore in that he upset the establishment candidate.

In an outcome that could only be called a dramatic upset, Republicans in Pennsylvania’s 18th District selected. . .a conservative outsider. . . In an exclusive interview with Newsmax shortly after securing the nomination, four-term, State Rep. Rick Saccone spelled out how he overcame two opponents — both better-financed and connected to the local GOP “establishment.”

“When you have 215 ‘conferees’ meeting to select a nominee, you try to meet as many as you can one-on-one,” Saccone told us, “And I felt if I could meet most of them for ten minutes, that’s what I would need to convince them I had the right agenda.”

Despite Trump’s landslide in the district, and Murphy’s landslide to win the seat in several elections, Democrats are looking for an upset, according to The Hill. And the well respected Cook Political Report has moved the seat from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican” in October, and now to “leans Republican.”

“Right now, Republicans have to be nervous about special elections even in heavily Republican districts. But the burden is still on the Democrats,” said Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster.

“[The district] has this history of voting Republican because of the nature of the electorate — white, working-class, non-college-educated workers that supported Trump. Overall, it’s a reasonably reliable Republican district.”

On the other side, Democrats have chosen a former prosecutor, Conor Lamb, who knows he may be “slaughtered.”

Murphy had held the seat for nearly 15 years, running unopposed in 2014 and 2016, and it’s still considered a likely Republican seat. Though there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, Trump won the district by a three-to-two margin in 2016.

During redistricting in 2011, the GOP-controlled legislature drew the district to stretch from the southwest corner of the state east past Ligonier. It includes parts of Allegheny, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

In a speech before balloting began at the Democratic convention, Lamb said he wasn’t concerned about an unfavorable map.

However, despite the history and demographics, FiveThirtyEight believes that we may be in the beginning of a Democratic wave in 2018, based on the fact that while losing all year, Democrats have outperformed expectations.

There have been more than 70 special elections for state and federal legislative seats in 2017. . .The Democratic margin has been 12 percentage points better, on average, than the partisan lean in each race. . .The point is that Democrats are doing better in all types of districts with all types of candidates. You don’t see this type of consistent outperformance unless there’s an overriding pro-Democratic national factor.

In fact, in another article, FiveThirtyEight says the Dem “wave” could become a “flood.”

A new CNN survey released this week showed Democrats leading Republicans by an astounding 56 percent to 38 percent on the generic congressional ballot. That’s an 18 percentage point lead among registered voters — a record-breaking result. No other survey taken in November or December in the year before a midterm has found the majority party in the House down by that much since at least the 1938 cycle (as far back as I have data). . .

Democrats are probably favorites to win the House. Their current advantage is larger than the lead Republicans had at this point in the 1994 cycle, the lead Democrats held at this point in the 2006 cycle or the lead Republicans had at this point in the 2010 cycle. Those were all years when the minority party won control of the House. And a 12 percentage point Democratic advantage in the national House vote come next November would likely be more than enough for the House to flip again. I’ve previously calculated that the Democrats need to win the national House vote by 5.5 to 8 points to win the House.

Of course, those are “generic” numbers. People tend to like their own representative more than they like the party, and with gerrymandering, Democrats have been getting more votes and fewer seats for years. So a “generic” lead may mean nothing at all.

Goethe Behr :Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.

View Comments (5)

  • This sounds like the same kind of poll that predicted a Hillary Clinton win. They were wrong then and are wrong now.

    • Nonsense. The final polls of last year's election were almost identical to the vote totals. This propaganda that the polls were wrong is just that--propaganda.

      The fault lay with the analyses conducted on the polls. They didn't anticipate a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of unlikely outcomes.

  • Good article. I have no idea who will win.

    It wasn't propaganda. The polls were wrong. The Fox News pollster said "I have no idea what happened."

    • You can't imagine how angry this makes me. I know there's a desire out there to destroy every American institution, but this is one of the worst.

      I'm not vouching for Fox polls. They said Moore would win in a 10% landslide. That's not just wrong, that's dishonest, and possibly manipulative.

      The final RCP average of polls in 2016 showed this:
      Clinton 45.5 and Trump 42.2--a difference of 3.3%--with 12.3% who didn't want either of them.

      The actual vote totals were this:
      Clinton 48.2 and Trump 46.1--a difference of 2.1%

      https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton_vs_johnson_vs_stein-5952.html

      Even if you pretend the 12.3% didn't matter, a difference of 1.2% between the polls and the final results is HALF of the margin of error.

      Thus the polls were PERFECTLY correct.