Pennsylvania Republican Congressional candidate Rick Saccone branded himself the underdog in Tuesday’s special election to fill a Congressional seat held by the GOP for the last 15 years in a district where President Donald Trump won in 2016 by 20 percentage points.
“Well, I’ve always been the underdog in every race I’ve ever ran. This is my fifth election. So, I relish being the underdog. That's good,” Saccone told Fox News in an interview Tuesday morning. “You know, it's all in the Lord's hands. He’s got to get people, move their hearts to get out and vote today. Wake up and go vote, people.”
Saccone touted his campaign’s “ground game,” predicting on “Fox & Friends” that it would be successful in turning out his voters in Tuesday’s special election. He panned recent polls that have showed him trailing Democrat Conor Lamb in a neck-and-neck race.
Fox News host Brian Kilmeade noted at the conclusion of his interview with Saccone that Lamb had denied an invitation for an interview on “Fox & Friends.”
That the race in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has been close at all has been seen by some as a possible early indication of the uphill battle many expect Republicans to face in the 2018 midterms. Former GOP Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned last October, represented the district since 2003 and ran unopposed for reelection in 2016.
The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index rates Pennsylvania’s 18th district as R+11, meaning Republicans performed an average of 11 points better there than the national average over the last two presidential elections.
The close race in Pennsylvania’s 18th falls in line with a national trend since Trump’s election in which Democrats running in special elections have significantly outperformed their 2016 counterparts. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) won a surprise victory in his state’s special election late last year, while Democrats ran competitive House races throughout 2017 in typically deep-red districts in Montana, Kansas and Georgia.
Tuesday morning, Saccone said his race was especially competitive because Democrats had gone all-in to win an open seat. The race has attracted millions of dollars in outside political spending, with national Republican groups spending $9.3 million on the race compared to the $1 million the Democratic National Congressional Committee said it has invested in it.
“Well, it's an open seat. And you know, as you study politics, and I'm a political scientist, you know there’s a lot more interest, a lot of national interest whenever it's an open seat,” Saccone said. “It's hard to beat an incumbent. So, you know, it's natural that the Dems would try to pour everything into it to take a seat.”