Donald Trump Jr. Gets 'Interviewed' by Chocolate Bunny at Pennsylvania Candy Factory

Congressional candidate for Pennsylvanias 18th district and the audience recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign rally with United Mine Workers of America

Democrats are hoping his campaign could provide a blueprint for other candidates in areas long-forgotten by the national party.

The two candidates in Pennsylvania's 18th district are vying to fill the House seat vacated by Murphy who resigned in October following a scandal involving a staffer. Murphy represented the district from 2003 to 2017.

However, official results after a nail-biting count on Tuesday showed moderate Democrat Conor Lamb leading conservative Republican Rick Saccone by a fraction of a percentage point with votes counted from 100 percent of precincts.

On the other hand, if Saccone keeps the seat in the Republican column, but the margin of victory is held to single digits, Democrats will again proclaim it a moral victory, just as they did in those five prior special congressional elections.

"This is a very tough environment for Republicans", said Corry Bliss of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Saccone's poor performance is worrying for Republicans who were sure that tax cuts, the party's only major legislative achievement under Trump, would be a vote victor this year.

Still, Saccone's campaign struggled to gain traction from the start. Saccone had trouble raising money and exciting Republican voters. When I texted Mike Cernovich, conspiracy theorist and king of the MAGA faction of the Internet, to get his thoughts, he was initially confused: "I don't even know who is running or that there was a race!"

A good example is the debate over gun control, which was reignited after the mass shooting in Florida last month and made its way to the House race in Pennsylvania.

In the final days of the race, a liberal-leaning group sent out a political mailer stating that Saccone supported ending background checks.

Saccone maintains an A+ rating from the NRA and has sponsored several bills aimed at bolstering gun rights, including a 2016 bill to overturn Chuck E. Cheese's policy of refusing service to customers with firearms. Democrats have picked up more than three dozen statehouse seats across the country, pulled off a shocking upset against the deeply flawed Roy Moore in Alabama's Senate race, and ran up the margins in gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia late previous year.

Lamb has specifically distanced himself from national Democrats, in particular Pelosi. "I am a registered Republican, but as this party continues to cater to the extreme right, they push me left".

"I do think that he's too inexperienced", Blose said.

Today we'll have a much better feel if Trump's act is wearing thin, or if he's basking in the glow of pulling a failing candidate out of the mire.

A victory by Lamb would give Democrats added momentum ahead of the midterms this fall. The party closed out 2017 with high-profile wins in elections in Virginia and Alabama.

Democrats have performed respectably in special elections in the past year - but have picked up only one seat in Congress since Trump's election in November 2016 - Alabama's Doug Jones, who defeated Roy Moore for Jeff Sessions' vacant Senate seat.

"Who wins or loses is important", Marc Meredith, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

The outcome could offer signs of what's to come in November's midterm elections.

Despite his late surge in the polls, the district's voting history is still stacked against Lamb.

The district has voted for the GOP presidential nominee in every election since 2000, and Murphy ran unopposed in 2012 and 2014.

In 2016, "Trump really motivated people to come out", said Kerry Jobe, the vice-chairman of the Westmoreland County Republican Committee. Saccone could win on the Trump vote, if he doesn't, it's a sure sign that at least some of the enthusiasm in the president has waned.

President Trump has stumped hard for Rick Saccone and this race comes more than a year into his presidency.

Saccone, a state legislator who called himself "Trump before Trump" and sought to tie himself closely to the president throughout his campaign, was viewed by many Republicans as a poor candidate who was unable to fundraise well for his candidacy.



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