As President Donald Trump expressed confidence in recent days that Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone would hold on to a U.S. House seat in Pennsylvania, leaders of both parties in Congress - along with political handicappers on Capitol Hill - were waiting Tuesday to see what signs both parties might draw from today's voting, and the predictions they might make for this year's 2018 mid-term elections.
"The Economy is raging, at an all-time high, and is set to get even better," the President tweeted shortly after the polls opened on Tuesday in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District.
"Vote for Rick Saccone and keep it going!" the President said, as Saccone faces Democrat Conor Lamb, who has led in recent polling.
Here are five things to think about as we wait for the votes to come in this evening:
1. The GOP has won every House special under Trump. Despite some very close races, it is important to note that Republicans have been able to hold on to every House district which has had a special election over the past year. But they have been much closer outcomes than should have been the case, based on past results. The one big loss was the Alabama U.S. Senate race in December, which was a huge setback for the President and the GOP in general. A loss on Tuesday in Pennsylvania for Republicans would be another sign of possible distress in November of this year.
2. This is a Republican district - no matter what the GOP says. There were some raised eyebrows among political junkies in recent days, when the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party said the 18th Congressional District was a "Democratic district." It is not. This is a reliably Republican area which has much of the southern suburbs and exurbs near Pittsburgh. President Trump won here by 20 points. The former GOP Congressman - before he resigned in disgrace - didn't even have any Democratic opponents in 2016 or 2014. Don't let anyone kid you - this is GOP territory in the Keystone State.
3. The basics of this election are familiar. What have we seen in other special elections over the past year? Lots of Democrats turning out to the polls. Many Republicans seemingly not interested and staying home. That turnout edge has made things close in Montana, Georgia, and other states, but Republicans have been able to hold on. All that being said, this is a big election because it comes as the Congress heads into a mid-term election campaign season. Republicans think the new tax cut law will help them overcome any troubles linked to President Trump. Democrats think a "blue wave" is coming. The outcome will be important, no matter which party wins.
4. Is this a test for the Trump tax cut? While Democrats attack the President on the details of the tax cut law, Republicans hope that the plan can help them in Pennsylvania, and then later on in November. Donald Trump Jr. was highlighting exactly that during his visit to the Keystone State, as he visited a candy making business which expanded its work force. It's an issue that his father, the President, has been talking about every chance he gets as well.
5. Another special election that's an economic stimulus. Remember the stories of how much money was spent in the Georgia special election last year? That was over $50 million by the time the voters elected Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA). Handel was in Pennsylvania over the weekend helping GOP candidate Rick Saccone - this race hasn't totaled that much, but it's estimated outside groups have poured in about $18 million in money - still a hefty chunk of political change, which probably bought more than a few signs, meals and hotel rooms along the way.
© 2020 Cox Media Group