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Desperate GOP spending millions to save seat no Democrat even ran for in 2016

The GOP is panicked about the looming special election in Pennsylvania. It should be an easy win for Republicans, but it’s not.

By Eric Boehlert - February 06, 2018
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Mike Pence campaigns with PA state Rep. Rick Saccone

How does the GOP know it’s facing a wave election in November as the party remains anchored down by the unpopular Donald Trump?

Simple. Republicans are pumping millions of dollars into trying to save a Pennsylvania House district that Trump not only won by 20 points 15 months ago, but where Democrats didn’t even field a candidate in 2016.

But suddenly, the looming special election next month for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has morphed into a white-hot race, garnering national attention. And it’s giving the GOP fits. Trump rushed there in January to try to give the Republican candidate a boost, and Pence joined him on the trail last week.

The election pits a young Marine Corps veteran, Democrat Conor Lamb, against local Republican Rick Saccone, who’s trying to save a GOP House seat after the incumbent was forced out following the revelation of an extramarital affair.

That’s former seven-term Congressman Tim Murphy who resigned last October. And In 2016, Republican Murphy won 100 percent of the vote in his re-election bid.

Today, outside Republican groups are pumping millions into the race, panicked that losing the once-safe seat would signal a coming tsunami in November.

“Four conservative groups have purchased $4.7 million in television and radio ads to help state Rep. Rick Saccone, their candidate for the Pittsburgh-area seat held until last year by disgraced former GOP Rep. Tim Murphy,” the Washington Post now reports.

In some press accounts, the massive spending is being depicted as a victory for the GOP. But is it? Doesn’t the fact that Republican have to raise and spend millions of dollars defending a seat they won by 100 points in 2016 represent a major defeat for the GOP?

How is the Republican Party possibly going to defend all its vulnerable candidates in November when its forced to break the bank to save a seat that was so safe in 2016 that Democrats didn’t even run a candidate?

Adding to the Republican woes in Pennsylvania is the fact that the commonwealth’s supreme court recently demanded that congressional districts across the state be redrawn in a fairer away, knocking down the radical gerrymandering the GOP counted on when it won control of the state legislature.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court let stay that groundbreaking Pennsylvania decision. And while local Republicans now mull the radical move of impeaching the justices on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to punish them for the gerrymandering decision, it’s likely the districts will be redrawn in a way that’s far more favorable to Democrats.

So even if the GOP spends millions to save the 18th District seat in March, Saccone will have to turn around and face voters again in November and do it from a district that isn’t so safe.

The Republican Party is crumbling in Pennsylvania.


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