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Anxiety over Pennsylvania special election

Issued: 2018-03-07

You may not have heard of Rick Saccone, but for the next week, he just might be the most important man in American politics.

Saccone, a Republican, faces Democrat Conor Lamb in a March 13 special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. The two are vying to replace Tim MurphyTim MurphyTrump to Pa. GOP: Challenge congressional map all the way to Supreme Court Pennsylvania Supreme Court releases new congressional map Dems don't plan to put more money into heated Pa. race MORE, a Republican who had to resign after scandals about mistreatment of staff and allegedly asking his mistress to get an abortion, even though he was one of the most strongly pro-life members of Congress.

Under normal circumstances, this should not be a difficult race for Saccone. Yes, Democrats hold a 70,000-person edge in voter registration, but President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE carried the district by 20 points, Murphy won unopposed his last two terms and Saccone is used to winning in districts where his party is in the minority.

Moreover, it is estimated that Saccone has outspent his opponent 17-to-1, he will have received campaign visits by President Trump, Vice President Pence and first daughter Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpKushner resisting giving up top access amid scrutiny over security clearances: report In new memo, Kelly changes White House security clearance process Kushner disclosed additional assets in amended financial disclosure form: report MORE by election day and is running in a district that has voted Republican by increasing margins in the last five presidential elections.

But this is no ordinary year.

JUST IN: Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers sue to overturn new congressional district maps

Lamb, who, at 33, already has served as an officer in the Marines and a federal prosecutor, is no ordinary opponent. His family has been in politics for generations, he has announced he would not support Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiLawmakers feel pressure on guns Former Pelosi challenger: I have no 'interest in running for leadership again' Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March MORE (D-Calif.) as speaker, and he has managed to pull even or even surpass Saccone in the polls.

And there could not be much more riding on one race in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania in a district that may not even exist once Pennsylvania settles on a redistricting plan.

If Saccone wins — and the election is too close to call at this point — Republicans will allay jitters that have increased with the losses of statehouse elections in areas Trump carried in Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

The fundraising advantage Republicans already enjoy — they have $40 million in the bank; the Democrats are essentially broke at the national level — would swell with the new confidence and probably help ensure the GOP retains control of both houses of Congress in November.

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