In 2016, Donald Trump carried Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District by nearly 20 points over Democrat Hillary Clinton. A mere 16 months later, a massive political shift appears to have delivered a new House seat for Democrats.
As the Washington Post reports:
Republicans scrambled Wednesday to explain what happened in Pennsylvania, as a Democrat stood on the verge of a monumental win in a U.S. House special election that became a test of President Trump’s political clout.
While the race was still too close to call, Democrats were declaring victory as their candidate, Conor Lamb, clung to a narrow lead over Republican Rick Saccone in a district the president won by almost 20 points…
…House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to reassure his party that it would be difficult for Democrats to replicate their success in Pennsylvania across the country.
“This is something that you are not going to see repeated,” Ryan predicted.
Ryan’s post-special election bravado is surely designed to make Republican incumbents feel better, but there’s no way to sugarcoat the danger for the GOP in November. There are 119 House seats currently held by Republicans that are thought to be more competitive for Democrats than Pennsylvania’s 18th district. As Chris Cillizza notes for CNN:
This southwestern Pennsylvania district should have never been competitive — or even close to competitive. This is not a swing district. It is not even a Republican-leaning district. It is, based on past presidential performance and congressional level results, a comfortably Republican seat.
And if comfortably Republican seats like Pennsylvania’s 18th are competitive in this sort of national environment — an unpopular president in the White House, Democratic base voters fired up over the prospect of sending Donald Trump a message — then there are a whole lot of GOP members of Congress who need to start worrying this morning. [Pols emphasis]
According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index (PVI), Pennsylvania’s 18th district has a PVI rating of R+11, which is a basic measure of how the district has performed compared to the rest of the country in recent Presidential elections. In Colorado, only two incumbent Republicans reside in districts with a better PVI rating (R+14 in CD-5, and R+13 in CD-4).
Based on these numbers, Rep. Scott Tipton (R+6) and Rep. Mike Coffman (D+2) should be very nervous about their re-election chances. Of course, Coffman has beaten these odds before — Hillary Clinton carried CD-6 by 9 points in 2016, and Coffman still defeated Democrat Morgan Carroll 51-43 — but Coffman has never faced headwinds quite like those that are brewing in 2018. In late February, a poll showing Democrat Jason Crow with a 5-point lead on Coffman was the first public poll that has ever found Coffman in second place in CD-6.
Conor Lamb’s victory in Pennsylvania completely flips the script for Republican in another metric: Republican campaign committees and Super PACs outspent Democrats by a better than 5-to-1 margin and still couldn’t hold what should have been a safe Republican seat.
The blue wave is coming.