Politicians, pollsters and pundits are gorging themselves on the many take-aways from Tuesday’s special election results in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, where a Democrat is the apparent victor by a few hundred votes. It’s a district President Donald Trump took by almost 20 percentage points. But there may be a unique takeaway for Long Island in the midterm elections.
Apparent winner Conor Lamb positioned himself as a center-right Democrat who took on many of the views of his very conservative Republican opponent, Rick Saccone. This type of localization is the current view of the Democratic National Committee, which is pushing the message that the candidate must be customized to the district rather than the district subscribe to party orthodoxy.
Lamb ignored Trump and ran this type of campaign. Saccone wore Trump — who visited the area twice to campaign for him — as a badge of honor.
There are many reasons for Lamb’s success, including the DNC’s “conform to the district” mantra. But more than local appeal is delivering for Democrats in red areas.
After all, PA18 trended to the GOP for years. In 2008, it went for John McCain by more than 11 points. Mitt Romney increased the margin to more than 17 points in 2012. And the district went even bigger for Trump in 2016.
What’s changed is that moderate suburban women in this district, which includes the more affluent counties outside Pittsburgh and struggling Rust Belt areas of closed mills and coal mines to the south, crossed over to the Democratic column.
That political muscle is swelling, bolstered by national movements against sexual harassment and pay inequality embraced by women of all ages and parties.
College-educated suburban women have been moving away from Trump and those who staunchly defend him. That trend was evident in December’s Alabama Senate race, when Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore, and in November’s gubernatorial race in Virginia, when Democrat nominee Ralph Northam got 54 percent of the vote against Republican Ed Gillespie.
Tuesday’s results in Pennsylvania could spell trouble in New York’s CD1 for Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of Trump’s biggest boosters in a blue state.