Pa. special election is a toss-up: top election forecaster

A nonpartisan election handicapper moved its rating of a high-profile House special election in Pennsylvania toward Democrats on Tuesday, with the Cook Political Report declaring that the March race for a red seat currently held by Republicans is now a “toss-up.”

Recent polling has shown state Rep. Rick Saccone (R) with a single-digit lead over Conor Lamb (D), even though President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE won the district by 20 points in 2016.

The race is “exceedingly close,” the Cook report said.

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Lamb raised almost three times as much as Saccone in 2017, giving him more money for ads. GOP leadership has had to spend millions backing up Saccone to keep up with the 33-year-old challenger. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), House Republicans’ campaign arm, has put $2.2 million into bolstering Saccone. Meanwhile, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC backing the GOP majority, has spent another $2.7 million. 

Cook noted the ads have focused on aligning Saccone with Trump and the GOP tax cuts.

Lamb, a Democratic prosecutor and Marine veteran, has emphasized the protection of Social Security and Medicare from funding cuts while staying strategically silent and moderate on hot-button issues such as abortion and fracking, while also distancing himself from House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Pelosi: Georgia primary ‘disgrace’ could preview an election debacle in November MORE (D-Calif.). 

Some turnout models show Saccone taking a wider lead on election day, but the Lamb campaign could surge with a high turnout from college graduates. The district has the highest rate of graduates in the western part of the state, the report says. 

The race has come into the national spotlight ahead of the March 13 voting day, with Vice President Pence appearing at a rally for Saccone earlier this month. 

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Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBush, Romney won’t support Trump reelection: NYT Twitter joins Democrats to boost mail-in voting — here’s why Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) has given stern warnings to Republican incumbents behind Democrats in their fundraising for 2018, saying that money could decide whether the GOP retains control of the House. 

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