Conor Lamb should never have become a competitive candidate in Pennsylvania. But he is.
What started as a disaster for Republicans is becoming a nightmare, as FEC filings released Thursday night reveal Democrats are blowing Republicans out of the water in the run-up to the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.
In the past two months, Marine Corps veteran and prosecutor Conor Lamb raised $3.3 million in direct donations and spent $2.9 million, heading into the final month of the race with $800,000 on hand. By contrast, former Air Force mechanic and Republican state Sen. Rick Saccone raised $700,000 and spent $600,000, and has only $300,000 left.
Republicans have tried to prop up their candidate by flooding the election with outside money, outspending Democrats 17 to 1. But this has had no effect, as polls show the race tightening to a neck-and-neck contest.
But many factors have hurt Republicans in this race. Voters in the district are unimpressed by Trump’s agenda. Saccone and his allies spent half their time unsuccessfully trying to tie Lamb to Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, failing to articulate a positive agenda. Lamb, meanwhile, has a military and law enforcement pedigree equal to or greater than Saccone’s, giving him broad appeal.
Democrats’ strong showing in this race is a bellwether of worse problems to come for the GOP in Pennsylvania. Thanks to court-ordered redistricting, the entire map will offer a fair, unskewed election in November, making it harder to hold House seats statewide.
The days of Republicans coasting to victory in House races is over. In Pennsylvania and across the country, the GOP is fighting for its life.