Meet Rick Saccone, Pennsylvania GOP candidate hoping to stem a rising blue tide

Pennsylvania GOP candidate is hoping to stem a rising blue tide.

It is a contest that is seen as a bellwether for the 2018 midterms and the latest referendum on the political impact of Trump's presidency. So far, some polls show the race within 5 points in a district that Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016.

Trump joined Saccone on the trail on Saturday in a last effort to sway voters ahead of Tuesday’s special election, calling on Pennsylvanians to elect the candidate who will keep “the agenda 'Make America Great' going.”

“I could not have asked for a stronger endorsement of our campaign ahead of the March 13 special election,” Saccone said after Saturday's rally.

Here’s a rundown of Saccone’s political history and unexpectedly tough campaign in the battleground state that delivered Trump the presidency.

An unusual resume

Saccone is pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-Trump conservative whose support for the GOP tax cuts, strengthening the military, and increasing border security closely align with the president’s views. He once even called himself “Trump before Trump was Trump.”

However, when it comes to campaigning, Saccone diverges with Trump’s successful strategy of running as an outsider, instead boasting of his decades of experience in Pennsylvania politics.

While the GOP candidate underscores his record in the state legislature, he also brings a wide-ranging resume to national politics.

The four-term state representative served in the United States Air Force as a special agent and is a former diplomatic representative in North Korea during President George W. Bush's adminsitration.

Saccone worked as a television news anchor in South Korea, earned a doctorate in international affairs, and worked as a college political science professor. He is also the author of nine books.

The money race

Saccone’s greatest obstacle during this race — and the primary reason he’s facing an unexpectedly tough challenge from Lamb — is his opponent's fundraising powerhouse.

Running on a Trump agenda in Trump Country

Saccone is a staunch ally of the president, campaigning on the priorities and agenda of the Trump administration, and pledging himself to be a “wingman” for Trump if elected.

In January, Trump touted his support for Saccone, tweeting, “Rick is a great guy.”

Trump and Saccone shared the stage on Saturday at the “Make America Great Again” rally in the Pittsburgh area to deliver the final push to carry the Pennsylvania Republican over the finish line in the special election.

“The president's support is key to attaining victory on March 13,” Saccone said in his speech before Trump took the stage at a campaign rally over the weekend. “There’s no one I'd rather have in my corner than President Trump.”

Trump briefly mentioned his support for Saccone in his 75-minute stump speech, telling Pennsylvanians to “elect people that are going to back our agenda and fight for our values.”

And Saccone has tied the election right back to Trump.

“I hope [voters] judge it on the merits of my background and experience and qualifications,” Saccone told ABC News' Nightline last month. “But if it’s a referendum on Trump, this is Trump country.”

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