As many predicted would happen, Democrat Conor Lamb declared victory in the #PA18 special election over Republican Rick Saccone [Democrat Conor Lamb declares victory in Pennsylvania race,
by Ben Kamisar, The Hill,
March 14, 2018]. Despite Lamb's support for amnesty, Saccone failed to make immigration an issue in the campaign
. More importantly, Saccone ran as a typical Republican in a district which, though it voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, is still Democratic in terms of voter registration.
Lamb is a former Marine who ran as a moderate, avoided criticizing the president, supported tariffs, and couched his support for amnesty in vague platitudes about Christianity. In contrast, though Saccone tied himself to Trump personally, he did not talk about the kinds of issues which mattered to a working class district.
The brutal reality is that this is not the fault of Saccone so much as President Trump. President Trump seems to believe people are in love with his personality. The truth is President Trump's voters, especially those in the Rust Belt, only supported him because they thought he would deliver on immigration and trade, and because he said he would not cut entitlements. Instead, he tied himself to Paul Ryan and the typical GOP agenda.
Civic nationalism, economic populism, and immigration restriction is a winning agenda. It is what gave President Trump the White House, despite his personal failings. Yet the Republican Party learned nothing from this and is governing as if there is a feistier version of Marco Rubio at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Unfortunately, President Trump hasn't learned anything either.
It's not about him. It never was. It was always about the message. And the fact the GOP is losing pro-Trump districts even after the President personally campaigned in them is a direct a warning as can be imagined. Rather than blaming Saccone, the GOP needs to look at itself and what exactly it claims to be offering to working-class America. Right now, the Republicans are offering nothing besides steel tariffs, and the Democrats are picking up the populist ball and running with it.