March 15, 2018

MICHAEL BARONE: Democrats can take the House, if they just pick Conor Lamb over Hillary Clinton.

The pattern of Lamb’s narrow victory was similar to results in other special congressional and state legislative elections over the past year. Democratic turnout was robust, particularly in relatively upscale Pittsburgh suburbs. Republican turnout lagged, and some non-college whites who voted for Trump and Romney voted Democratic this time.

Evidently, downscale whites, whose trend toward Republicans started in the 1990s and was augmented with the Trump candidacy, are less firmly attached to one party than Trump-haters are to the other. This is in line with the skeptical response to any new policy change by either party, as evidenced by the negative responses to Obamacare when Barack Obama was in office and the negative response to Republicans’ “repeal and replace” once Trump became president.

Some observers argued that Saccone, like other Republican nominees in special elections, was a weak candidate. A better observation is that Lamb was a strong one. Nominated by party leaders, not in a primary, he has a family political pedigree (his uncle is Pittsburgh city controller) in a long-settled metro area where such ties are important.

And he took moderate positions on multiple issues. A former Marine, he ran an ad showing him shooting an AR-15 and said, “new gun laws aren’t the answer to preventing more mass shootings like the one at a Florida high school.” Early on, he pledged not to vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker (an issue which won’t come up until at least January 2019). While many Democrats are baying for impeachment, Lamb said, “We need the office of the presidency to succeed if we’re going to make any progress on these issues.”

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