Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law
Much is being made about the surprising election of Connor Lamb, the Democrat, over the Republican candidate, most of it either proclaiming “The sky is falling” or ” A new day is dawning”. Let’s take a look at what we actually know.
- The Congressional district at issue was won by President Trump in 2016 by about 20 points.
- Connor Lamb did not run as a Pelosi/Schumer/Warren Democrat. He hewed religiously to the mantra “All politics is local”, focusing his campaign on issues relevant to the voters in that unique area of Pennsylvania. Mr. Lamb was an attractive candidate, young, former Marine, etc.
- His opponent, Rick Carrone, was a solid Republican candidate, despite the after-the-fact criticism of him as “uninspiring”. He ran a campaign that was destined to win in normal times, which these aren’t. President Trump personally campaigned for him the Saturday before the election. Outside groups poured some $10 million into supporting Carrone. And he lost by only some 367 votes.
- The Democrats out-performed Hillary’s 2016 campaign while the Republicans failed to reach the President’s margins in key Republican areas.
- The unique congressional district that was the landscape for this election will disappear later this year when the congressional lines are re-drawn according to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision on gerrymandering for political purposes.
- Special elections, particularly when they are the only game in town, are unique animals. With national focus on only one small area and its election, emphasis gets hyped beyond any rationality. After all, the pundits and media have to have SOMETHING to bloviate about.
So, what is the take-away from all this? For the Democrats, the Trump machine, aka ‘The Base”, is not invincible. For the Republicans, you cannot take anything for granted. Same old, same old. But, I think both parties are overlooking one key factor.
Hillary, or the absence thereof.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton was the most shopworn, despised politician in America,maybe even in American history. Despite her best efforts, the Democrat Party is doing its best to keep her out of the limelight, ignoring her efforts to justify her pitiful campaign and astounding defeat by someone who had never held office or participated in government at any level. My unsubstantiated, but fervent conviction, is that anywhere from 5-10% of the Trump voters in 2016 were, in fact, anti-Hillary votes. Persons who had no affinity for Donald Trump cast votes for him because his opponent was Hillary Clinton. Trump -ehh, OK. Hillary – NO. I contend that was a difference maker in many of the close states. You take away those voters in a special election, and the result is Congressman Connor Lamb, victor.
The challenge for the Republican Party is to keep those anti-Hillary voters in the fold. The President’s base is holding firm at 30-35%. Can you win a primary with those numbers? YES. Can you win a general election against a Democrat Party not shackled with Hillary; can you entice the independents and moderate, not-movement Republicans to get behind an historically unpopular President? Not gonna be easy. Maybe the Republicans should pray that she does run again.