Last week was not a good one for Rick Saccone, Republican nominee in a pivotal special House election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District.
A just-completed Emerson College poll showed Democrat Conor Lamb winning the race in the four-country district outside Pittsburgh by 48 to 45 percent.
Moreover, Politico reported that National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers sternly told Saccone to start “pulling his weight” on local fund-raising.
Despite this, an ebullient Saccone confidently predicted victory next Tuesday because of key issues and local support for President Trump.
U.S. Air Force veteran and State Rep. Saccone sat down with Newsmax on Wednesday, days before the president is scheduled to arrive in western Pennsylvania to campaign for the man who proudly dubs himself as “For Trump Before Trump.”
“By that, I mean all the issues on which Donald Trump campaigned for president I was fighting for years earlier,” he told me, pointing to protecting the unborn, the appointment of federal judges, lowering tax rates, repealing and replacing Obamacare “and free trade to so long as it is fair.”
Regarding reports that Trump’s popularity has waned in a district that he carried by 20 points and that the momentum is with former federal prosecutor Lamb, Saccone is dismissive.
“The key is who turns out,” he said. “And we know how to turn out voters. My wife and I have knocked on 40,000 doors over the last eight years [in the legislature].” He added that he has hosted more than 200 events in his district, ranging from courts that honor Eagle Scouts to town meeting on legislation.
As national press reports disparage Saccone’s chances of holding the historically Republican district, Lamb, 33, is seen as a prototype of a modern “centrist” Democrat.
“He’s a far-left liberal in disguise,” snapped Saccone. “Right in line with Nancy Pelosi. He says he won’t vote for her for speaker, but she and her lieutenants in the House have all sent him money. ‘Uncle Crazy Joe’ Biden was here to campaign for him. He says he’s ‘personally pro-life,’ but won’t vote to limit access to an abortion. Come on!”
At a time after the Parkland shootings, when many gun advocates have distanced themselves from the National Rifle Association, Saccone says without hesitation “my opponent says in his commercials he ‘likes to shoot,’ but he is not pro-Second Amendment. I am very pro-Second Amendment.”
While widely characterized as a “hard-core conservative” or “Trump Republican” in the state and national press, Saccone, 60, evinces signs that he is somewhat different from the predictable GOP candidate on the right. He proudly notes that he has written numerous pieces of legislation with Democrats in Harrisburg, ranging from measures to thwart Internet child sex predators to a bill to toughen penalties for “stolen valor” (assuming a fictional record in uniform).
“I doubt my opponent has even read a bill,” said the Republican.
Saccone, who has lived in North Korea and participated in negotiations with Pyongyang, (and is married to a South Korean), also believes there can eventually be an opening with the Hermit Kingdom.
“We don’t have to like each other — just talk to each other,” said the candidate, who has written two books on North Korea.
Saccone sat down with me at Republican headquarters in bucolic Greensburg. Parked outside is the “Trumpmobile,” an SUV plastered with a portrait of the president and "Make America great again" stickers.
This is still Trump country, in at least parts of the 18th District. Whether neighbors turn out for Rick Saccone may well be the factor in determining whether or Conor Lamb wins the election Tuesday.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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