Deja Vu All Over Again. Health Care Takes Center Stage in 2018 Campaigns

There’s always something of a disconnect between what Washington, DC is obsessed about and what the rest of the country is worried about. In DC, of course, the story is Robert Mueller, Russia and White House chaos. Out in congressional races, however, Democratic candidates aren’t talking about any of those things. Instead, their primary focus is health care; specifically, their criticism of GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare.

Conor Lamb Ran as a Change Agent in PA-18. So Are Lots of Other Democrats

A lot of ink has been spilled and much TV airtime has been cluttered with opinions and analysis of the PA-18 special election. Some good. Some bad. Some ridiculous and overblown.

I’m not interested in rehashing or debunking all of it. Nor do I think it’s healthy to read too much into one special election.

But, there are some important takeaways from this election that will tell us something about the road ahead for both parties in 2018.

PA-18 Result Is Latest Blow to GOP Odds of Holding the House

Democrat Conor Lamb's near-certain win in a western Pennsylvania district President Trump carried by 20 points brings his party one seat closer to the 24 they need to pick up for a majority, but it's another broad sign of danger for House Republicans.

At this writing, Lamb holds a 627 vote lead over Republican Rick Saccone with all precincts and absentee votes counted. Although a handful of provisional and military ballots remain and Saccone can technically request a recount, it's extremely unlikely those would change the result.

Trump Gets More Positive Ad Cover Than Obama Did at This Point in 2014 Cycle

I spent some time watching a bunch of campaign ads for candidates running for Congress, Senate and Governor. Most were from early primary states like Texas and Illinois. President Trump plays a starring role in many, if not most of them. Democratic candidates pledge “to stop Donald Trump” while Republicans boast of their support for the president and/or identify with his cultural and policy proposals.

Trump's Branding Plan vs. GOP's 2018 Election Plan

The game plan for congressional Republicans in 2018 isn’t all that complicated. Talk up the growing economy, while also highlighting the benefits of the tax cut legislation (More money in your pocket! Bonuses to workers!). Do good opposition research on Democratic challengers, hope Democrats nominate the weakest candidate out of these multi-candidate primaries and spend the fall tying those Democrats to Nancy Pelosi.

Bing. Bang. Done.

The Economy Is Improving, but It's Not Helping the GOP's Image

Despite all the challenges facing Republicans in the upcoming midterm election, the one thing that gives them hope for retaining their majorities in Congress is the economy. And, with good reason. We’ve got low unemployment, signs of real wage growth, improving perceptions of the tax law, and surging consumer confidence. However, we've yet to see that translate into support for President Trump— or for his party.

PA-18 Special Election Moves from Lean Republican to Toss Up

It's not normal for Republicans to be worried about losing a seat President Trump carried by 20 points. But with two weeks to go before the March 13 special election, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone is locked in an extremely close contest against Democratic prosecutor/Marine veteran Conor Lamb, who has significantly outspent him. We're moving the race from Lean Republican to Toss Up.

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