Special election rebuff builds Trump's losing streak

For someone who talks so much about winning, President Donald Trump is racking up quite the losing streak.The ...

Posted: Mar 16, 2018 12:41 AM

For someone who talks so much about winning, President Donald Trump is racking up quite the losing streak.

The electoral earthquake in Pennsylvania set to send Democrat Conor Lamb to the House of Representatives from a district Trump won by 20 points in 2016 is sparking new questions about the President's personal political potency.

That's because state Rep. Rick Saccone is not the first GOP candidate during Trump's term to win the President's blessing and promptly lose. Trump-backed candidates Luther Strange, Roy Moore and Ed Gillespie also tanked in Senate and gubernatorial races in Alabama and Virginia.

Those busted endorsements suggest that for all his mystical connection with his base, Trump is not necessarily an asset for GOP candidates in special elections. They may also be a sign that the President will be more of a liability than an asset for Republicans come midterm elections in November.

While some Republicans are in denial over the implications of Tuesday's special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, others are concluding that relying on the President in reelection races may not be a sure bet.

"You better be ready and in the end you determine your own fate in these things," Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said Wednesday.

Other Republicans heaped blame on Saccone, blasting him as a poor candidate, even though he faced a tough political environment contoured by the President's low approval rating.

"You've got to control your own destiny, and he didn't," said Rep. John Shimkus, a Illinois Republican.

The relative talents of Saccone and Lamb are among many factors -- local, national and demographic -- that help explain Tuesday's voting, which left the Democrat claiming victory with just a few votes left to be counted.

But the unpopularity of the President and the fact that he had traveled to the district Saturday to offer his endorsement, albeit in a typically wild and rambling rally, inevitably mean he's getting his share of criticism.

Trump may have both hurt and helped Saccone. His historically poor approval rating is clearly pulling down all Republican candidates. The chaos in governance that the President is fomenting and his alpha male brand of leadership may also help explain his plummet among white female voters, who can be crucial in suburban areas.

But some Republicans think Saccone may have done even worse had it not been for Trump parachuting in on Saturday, lambasting "Lamb the sham" and inspiring some of his loyal voters to cast ballots.

"It was probably a little bit too little too late," said Shimkus.

Two sources close to the White House told CNN's Jim Acosta that the GOP doesn't see Saccone's loss as a referendum on Trump, describing their candidate in PA-18 as "weak."

"Candidates either run hard or run scared. It was obvious that Saccone decided to run scared," one source said.

GOP wake-up call

Still, Republicans accepted Lamb's win as a wake-up call for November, when the GOP's congressional majorities will be on the line.

It might also concern Trump and his political handlers that his twin message of tax cuts and tariffs -- tailored to the former industrial heartland of Pennsylvania -- couldn't drive Saccone to victory despite his own liabilities.

And there is no escaping the fact that other Trump-backed candidates have also lost.

Last year, Trump came up empty when he backed "Big" Sen. Luther Strange over rival Republican Judge Roy Moore in Alabama. Then, when Moore won the primary, the President took heat for backing him against Democrat Doug Jones despite the allegations of sexual assault the judge was facing. Moore still lost.

In November, the President endorsed Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, who belatedly ran a Trump-style scorched earth campaign that was rather out of character. He also lost.

Trump supporters could point to caveats in each case.

In Alabama, the President defied his own instincts by backing the choice of the GOP hierarchy, Strange, rather than Moore, the most anti-establishment, Trump-like candidate. Then, in his run against Jones, Moore's personal baggage might have doomed him no matter what Trump said.

In Virginia, Gillespie was always running uphill, since Trump lost the state to Hillary Clinton in 2016 after it was won twice by President Barack Obama.

Despite his losing streak, Trump may not be a millstone for all Republicans in November -- at least not in races in rural districts.

GOP tacticians, however, will have to carefully target his appearances, as they seek to drive out the Trump base to vote in the knowledge that the polarizing President can also fire up Democratic turnout.

"Some Republicans are going to have to run different races than other Republicans, particularly those in suburban districts where Trump is not popular," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist.

"In some of these other districts, Trump might be a huge asset for you. I don't think there is a one size fits all. I would look at this as more suburban versus not as suburban."

Republicans can also console themselves with the fact that Democrats may struggle to re-create the Lamb prototype. The new congressman held some relatively conservative positions on guns and abortion, for instance, and ran against the establishment of his own party. He did not face a primary, meaning that he could not be tugged to the left in a way that might have alienated moderate conservatives and Trump-voting converts.

Lamb also took pains not to alienate Trump voters.

"I know people voted for the President and voted for me. I thank them for hearing me out," he said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day."

In some ways, Trump's tarnished record of endorsements mirrors the first-term plight of his predecessor.

Coming off his hope-fueled victory in 2008, Obama soon discovered that his appeal was largely limited to his own races.

He endorsed Jon Corzine in the New Jersey gubernatorial race in 2009, who then lost to Republican Chris Christie in a state Obama had won.

He backed Martha Coakley, who was running for Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts, but she lost to Scott Brown -- though, as Republicans did with Saccone, Democrats blasted her as a terrible candidate.

Obama also had his own Virginia disappointment, backing Creigh Deeds for governor, who then lost to Republican Bob McDonnell.

Obama, a magnetic campaigner and singular political personality, was never able to transfer his aura to other Democrats -- and he took a pummeling in midterm elections that cost his party the House and effectively stunted his legislative agenda.

When he was back on the ballot himself, however, his political powers were restored and he won re-election by assembling a coalition similar to the one that had carried him to the White House in 2008.

If Trump's latest reverse previews a rout of Republicans at the polls in November, the President will hope that his own political magnetism and quintessential appeal can help him pull off a similar trick in 2020.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 16524
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1359292129
Lake666181167
Allen58254802
Hamilton46498467
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Elkhart36044510
Vanderburgh32333481
Tippecanoe28037260
Johnson25196446
Hendricks23960360
Porter22985367
Madison18820410
Clark18609253
Vigo17530303
Monroe15319200
LaPorte15230252
Delaware15127264
Howard14801290
Kosciusko12410149
Hancock11773176
Bartholomew11695180
Warrick11305189
Floyd11138215
Wayne11023253
Grant10131220
Morgan9506177
Boone8965116
Dubois8281131
Henry8252153
Dearborn823493
Noble8064106
Marshall7981135
Cass7556123
Lawrence7479172
Shelby7216119
Jackson700990
Gibson6614115
Harrison651892
Huntington6447100
Knox6427106
DeKalb6363100
Montgomery6293112
Miami595298
Putnam584179
Clinton579271
Whitley568455
Steuben566876
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Jasper536180
Jefferson513297
Ripley501987
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Daviess4684115
Scott439875
Greene427296
Clay426960
Wells426088
White420964
Decatur4177104
Fayette407387
Jennings390262
Posey377544
LaGrange361778
Washington360451
Randolph3476100
Spencer340743
Fountain336160
Sullivan330852
Starke319171
Owen315571
Fulton313468
Orange295064
Jay285546
Franklin266443
Perry265752
Rush263832
Carroll262434
Vermillion259854
Parke232029
Pike229643
Tipton229059
Blackford195042
Pulaski184657
Crawford160125
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Brown147047
Martin139319
Switzerland135311
Warren121416
Union107216
Ohio84613
Unassigned0544

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1524169

Reported Deaths: 23955
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1646591696
Cuyahoga1468932459
Hamilton1056051431
Montgomery742551279
Summit620221111
Lucas56539917
Butler51696718
Stark468601064
Lorain35783585
Warren32903377
Mahoning30927693
Clermont28271330
Lake27179448
Delaware24263164
Licking24027294
Trumbull22993561
Fairfield22438247
Greene22414326
Medina22149313
Clark19920354
Richland18643292
Portage18073252
Wood17505224
Allen16054279
Miami15627306
Muskingum14890185
Columbiana14153274
Wayne13852271
Tuscarawas12777311
Marion12016180
Scioto11497162
Pickaway11386142
Erie10951184
Ross10614203
Ashtabula9809204
Lawrence9783153
Hancock9741155
Belmont9333209
Geauga9008157
Jefferson8600199
Huron8427143
Union822259
Washington8114144
Sandusky7875151
Athens779579
Knox7766144
Darke7695158
Seneca7405145
Ashland6993130
Auglaize681799
Shelby6540115
Brown640091
Crawford6292130
Defiance6241105
Mercer617893
Fulton605196
Highland602899
Guernsey596371
Madison595678
Logan594596
Clinton585193
Preble5730125
Putnam5354110
Williams530888
Perry519863
Champaign514273
Jackson512473
Ottawa490586
Coshocton488383
Morrow460558
Pike435067
Fayette430363
Hardin420780
Gallia419367
Adams417995
Van Wert374082
Henry366972
Holmes3653125
Hocking357582
Wyandot325262
Carroll304365
Paulding280747
Meigs267251
Monroe216254
Noble201247
Morgan194333
Harrison182646
Vinton167225
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