Trump wades into PA race seen as test of GOP strength

Carolyn Kaster  AP

The GOP candidate in the 18th District race, Rick Saccone, greeted Trump at the airport.

President Trump backed the Republican in the Alabama race, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore, whose campaign was hampered by allegations of sexual misconduct and ultimately lost to former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones.

Saccone himself dismissed the idea that Republicans are nervous about the race, calling it "Democratic nonsense" and saying he requested the campaign help from the White House and Republican leadership.

"Very soon, your paychecks will be much bigger, because under our tax cuts, you will be keeping more of your hard-earned money".

"Indeed, it is", Trump said with a smile as the crowd applauded.

With a backdrop of a big US flag and new yellow forklifts built by his hosts, Trump also pulled out a slogan from President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign: "It's the economy, stupid - did you ever hear that one?"

"At the center of America's resurgence are the massive tax cuts that I just signed into law, and it's also reform. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!" the president tweeted on Thursday morning.

It's the first congressional race of the year, and it follows the embarrassment Trump suffered in December when a Democrat won a Senate seat in deeply Republican Alabama.

Donald Trump is no longer on "The Apprentice", but on days like Thursday the president of the United States executive produces, writes and stars in a White House-based reality show, "The Trump Show", complete with a boss who undermines his senior staff and congressional allies, prompting them to explain away the antics or ignore them. It cited the work the group had done raising money for Democrats in special elections a year ago, including $1.5 million in the highly contested race in Georgia's 6th District and $300,000 in the Montana at-large race.

And the tax plan, Trump argued, will simply buoy the economy.

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The president tweets Thursday: "Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13)".

On the other hand, Saccone is running hard to the right - unlike his predecessor Murphy, who easily held onto the district until it was revealed late previous year he'd had an affair and encouraged the woman to have an abortion. "And you are making America tick".

For Democrats, it's a chance to test whether they can win back working-class voters who fled the party in favor of Trump.

"It will show if rural voters are still convinced Donald Trump is still going to make their lives better, and I'm wondering if some are realizing that may not be the case", a national GOP strategist told TPM, warning a Saccone loss would be "a five-alarm fire" for the party. He said that his election has had positive effects on companies too.

Trump is not expected to mention Saccone in his remarks, the Associated Press reported.

"The promises he made in this district have not come to fruition", Kelly said.

One question is whether to deploy Trump in mainly Republican areas, where he remains popular, or push him out to more evenly divided states and congressional districts that will likely determine control. But he said the president will be active, as tax cuts and other economic policies will be big issues for him and Republicans around the country. But Trump's visit is the latest in a flurry of GOP activity as they look to stave off what would be a crushing loss in a district they shouldn't need to spend to keep.

Rick Saccone, left, is challenging Conor Lamb for the congressional seat.

If Democrats can win in this district, they think they can win nearly anywhere - and the building 2018 wave might be big enough to help them win the more rural areas they need for House control and defend tough populist states like nearby West Virginia as well as in and Missouri. So where did it all go?

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