Biden rallies the troops for Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania

Bridget Bowman, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

MOON, Pa. -- Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. traveled to the Pittsburgh suburbs one week before the special election in Pennsylvania's 18th District with a message aimed squarely at the middle class.

At separate events before a crowd of union workers in Pittsburgh and then a packed room of supporters here at Robert Morris University, Biden said Democrat Conor Lamb understands the people of the southwest Pennsylvania district. Invoking a military slogan, he said a Lamb victory would send a message across the country.

"He'll never leave anybody behind," Biden said at the Carpenters Training Center in Pittsburgh late Tuesday afternoon. "Go out and make sure he wins. It will set a trend in the nation. It will change things."

His message comes as Democrats weigh how to compete in traditionally Republican areas, and appeal to the working-class voters who supported President Donald Trump in 2016.

Lamb will face off against GOP state Rep. Rick Saccone in a March 13 special election to fill former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy's seat. Murphy, an anti-abortion rights candidate, resigned after revelations that he urged his mistress to have an abortion.

The race has become surprisingly competitive even though Trump carried the 18th District by 20 points in 2016. Republican Mitt Romney carried the district by 17 points in 2012. But now it's anyone's guess who will win next Tuesday. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up.

Democrats have credited their nominee's strength as a candidate with making the race close. Lamb hails from a political family though it's his first run for office. After serving as a Marine, he worked as a federal prosecutor.

Lamb has largely shied away from links the national party. He's said he wouldn't support California's Nancy Pelosi for House Democratic leader, and he declined to join his fellow Democrats in calling for new gun laws.

It was Biden's appeal to working-class voters that brought him to the campaign trail in the contest's final week. (The former vice president also referenced his Pennsylvania roots, though he hails from the opposite side of the state.)

At the Pittsburgh rally, Biden stressed the importance of standing with unions, and protecting Medicare and Social Security.

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Roughly 10 miles away at Robert Morris University, he again discussed the middle class with a packed room of Lamb supporters and took more swings at Republicans.

Biden slammed the GOP tax overhaul, saying it would lead to cuts in entitlement programs. And he denounced the millions spent on the airwaves to support Saccone and attack Lamb.

"If there's going to be a fight out there, I'm betting on that guy working construction or in a steel mill, I ain't betting on that fat cat writing a big check," the former vice president said, arguing that the grass-roots energy could overcome the barrage of critical TV ads.

Saccone sharply criticized Lamb on Tuesday for campaigning with Biden.

"Conor Lamb's tendency to surround himself with Washington liberals and his choice to campaign with a key part of the anti-coal Obama White House proves he would push the same failed liberal agenda in Congress," his campaign said in statement.

Saccone will also be getting some high-profile campaign trail help of his own. President Donald Trump heads to the area Saturday for a rally with the GOP nominee's supporters.

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