US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump shake hands at the 2018 State of the Union speech.
By Jim Ellis
April 12, 2018 — As we know, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced his retirement yesterday, and even more change can be presumed coming to Capitol Hill as a result.
In the short term, expect increased analyses predicting an ensuing Democratic majority forming in House races and further predictions over what party strategists refer to as an impending “blue wave.” They will suggest that the Ryan retirement shows the speaker understands the “wave” is becoming a political tsunami, and one not destined to fail in the manner that the predicted presidential “blue wall” crumbled.
Long term in this election cycle, however, things have a chance to play out differently. With a sure change in leadership coming no matter what the general election produces, Republican members and candidates will be freer to re-set the GOP agenda and join the chorus charging that the current Congress has failed to deliver on enough campaign promises.
Ryan has been a huge fundraiser for party candidates, and is credited in some reports with being responsible for some $54 million already being distributed to GOP contenders and party institutions. And, that’s before the latest Federal Election Commission (FEC) quarterly disclosure reports are released after April 15.
Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.
March 15, 2018 — Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have captured the 18th District special election held Tuesday in southwestern Pennsylvania, besting Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg); but it will likely be a couple days before the result is finalized. The margin stands at 641 votes in Lamb’s favor of 228,177 ballots cast with all precincts reporting and absentee votes counted, meaning a recount could be ordered.
Democrats will claim that this special election result sets the groundwork for the “blue wave” they have been predicting because their candidate converted a district that President Trump carried by 20 points and where resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) didn’t even draw an opponent during the past two elections.
Republicans will now counter saying that Lamb didn’t run like a liberal Democrat but was able to bring the large conservative western PA Democratic voter contingent — those who came out in droves to support President Trump, for example — back into his party’s column. During the campaign, Lamb publicly indicated that he would not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a way to convince the behaviorally conservative regional voter that he is not a national Democrat. Additionally, Lamb’s deep family ties to the Democratic base helped him as well. His grandfather is a former state House majority leader, and his uncle is the Pittsburgh City controller.
President Trump will undoubtedly take some credit for the close outcome. Prior to his visit to the district, pollsters were showing a much larger lead for Lamb than the preliminary final outcome produced. The final Monmouth University poll, for example, predicted a six to seven-point Lamb lead if the Democrats “surged” in turnout as they have done in other special elections around the country.