Donald Trump Tries To Take Credit For Democrat Conor Lamb’s Pennsylvania Special Election Victory [Opinion]

Gene J. Puskar, Evan VucciAP Images

Donald Trump on Wednesday night tried to take credit for Democrat Conor Lamb’s stunning victory in a Pennsylvania district that Trump won by 20 points, claiming that the upstart candidate won because he tried to be “like Trump.”

As the Atlantic reports, Trump was in Missouri Wednesday night, speaking at a fundraiser for Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley. Hours earlier, Lamb had claimed victory in a special election Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Trump had won the district handily in 2016 and had supported Lamb’s opponent, Republican Rick Saccone.

Nevertheless, though stung by a defeat that casts doubt on his party’s future in the 2018 midterms, Trump, in typical Trump fashion, brushed off the significance of his loss while simultaneously making it all about him.

“The young man last night that ran, he said, ‘Oh, I’m like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.’ He ran on that basis.”

Lamb, in fact, did no such thing. As noted by a companion Atlantic piece, Lamb hardly mentioned Trump at all during his campaign. He carefully crafted a campaign that focused on issues that mattered to the voters — labor issues, the opioid crisis, and entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security — rather than painting his candidacy as a referendum on Trump.

It was Lamb’s opponent, Saccone, who painted himself as a Trump-ian candidate running on the president’s cachet. As WESA reported back in November of 2017, Saccone invoked Trump when he was named to be the Republican candidate to replace former Congressman Tim Murphy. Saccone noted his history of being pro-life, of supporting gun rights, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”).

“That’s part of the agenda that people voted in [when Donald Trump was elected president]. They expect me to go down [to Washington] and fight for it and defend it, and I will. I’ll stand up to whoever is against that because I know that’s what the people want. I was Trump before Trump was Trump. I ran on that agenda in 2010. It’s the same agenda – it’s the people’s agenda. The president just nationalized it.”

Since becoming president, Trump, for his part, has tried to insert himself into every election that has involved a Republican, especially when they’ve lost. In Virginia, for example, Republican Ed Gillespie lost his gubernatorial bid to Ralph Northam — and Trump was quick to remind voters that Gillespie lost because he “did not embrace me or what I stand for.” Similarly, when Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones, Trump was quick to point out that he (Trump) never believed Moore could win.

Back in Missouri, both Donald Trump and Josh Hawley are hoping that their association will help the Republicans gain the Senate seat held by Democrat Clair McCaskill. Contrasting the charismatic and camera-friendly Hawley against the dour and lackluster Saccone, Trump pointed out that Hawley is the right man for this particular job.

“Because you do need the right candidate, have you heard about that? You do need the right candidate.”