-- In a sign that he is eager to involve himself in the coming 2018 midterm elections, President Donald Trump spoke today in southwestern Pennsylvania in the midst of a special election that could test his support in the same working class areas that propelled him to the presidency.
Trump gave a speech touting the recently passed tax reform bill and the economy at the H&K Equipment Company in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, located in the state’s vacant 18th congressional district, which was held by Republican Tim Murphy until he was forced to resign after an embarrassing scandal.
Speaking to reporters prior to his speech, Trump had kind words for State Representative Rick Saccone, a former military intelligence officer, who is taking on Democrat Conor Lamb, a former federal prosecutor and Marine Corps veteran.
"Rick is a great guy," Trump said, adding that he plans to return to the district before the March 13 special election to campaign for Saccone.
"I'll be back for Rick, and we're going to fill up a stadium and we're going to do something really special for Rick. I look forward to it," Trump said.
The visit to Pennsylvania comes as the President has said he wants to increase his engagement in the 2018 midterm cycle.
“I am going to spend probably four or five days a week helping people because we need more Republicans,” President Trump told Reuters in an interview Wednesday, “I will be very much involved with - beyond the primaries - with the election itself, very very much.”
Lamb faces an uphill battle in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, which is tucked in the state’s southwestern corner. The district voted for President Trump by nearly 20 points in the 2016 presidential election, and had been represented by Murphy since 2003.
The Democrat’s campaign released its first television advertisement Thursday, which highlights Lamb’s military and legal experience, and also re-iterates his call for new congressional leadership in both parties.
If elected, Lamb said that he will not support Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as the Democratic Leader, and his first television advertisement touts him as “the only candidate whose said that Democrats and Republicans need new leaders in Congress.”
The president’s visit comes as Republican anxiety about the 2018 midterms is only increasing, as Democrats are looking to seize on the momentum from recent victories in redder parts of the country like Alabama, where last month a Democrat was elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time in over two decades.
President Trump backed the Republican in the Alabama race, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore, whose campaign was hampered by allegations of sexual misconduct and ultimately lost to former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones.