Trump goes campaigning in Pennsylvania - after White House says he's not campaigning

Carolyn Kaster  AP

Earlier on Thursday, Trump said on Twitter that the trip was meant to show his "total support" for Saccone - although the White House later emphasized that the official goal of the trip was to talk about tax cuts.

Trump, who will not visit the Pittsburgh-area district where state Rep. Rick Saccone is running in a March 13 special election, will talk about his tax overhaul. Also, the event won't take place in the 18th Congressional District, where the GOP incumbent, Tim Murphy, resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair.

While Republicans are still confident they'll retain the seat, special elections tend to favor the party whose voters are more fired up, which appears to be the Democrats this year, the person said.

President Donald Trump is wading into a Pennsylvania special election that Republicans are calling a bellwether for their prospects of holding onto majorities in the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms. The White House in recent days had said the trip was about touting the Republican tax plan signed into law on December 22.

Saccone, a veteran state legislator, did not speak.

The potential government shutdown crisis in Washington seemed far from Trump's mind as he took a victory lap on the tax plan he signed into law late a year ago and the booming economy. A campaign event would require that taxpayers be reimbursed for some of the expenses.

While Trump easily won the district, Democrats are looking to build on their Senate victory in conservative Alabama, where Trump twice endorsed losing candidates, and a Republican lost for the first time in decades. Trump briefly introduced to the crowd as "a real friend and a spectacular man", and told reporters during a pre-speech tour of the factory that "I'll be back for Rick" as the election draws nearer.

Trump won Murphy's congressional district by some 19 points in 2016, and his statewide win in Pennsylvania - the first Republican presidential to carry the Keystone State since 1988 - was essential in winning the Electoral College.

"Under the tax cuts you will be keeping more of your hard-earned money", said Trump.

"People know there will be disagreements, they know the issues are complex, but they feel like what they are getting now is a government that is not doing its job", Lamb said.

To head off Republican charges he would be a loyal follower of Democratic House of Representatives leader Nancy Pelosi, he said he would not support her for speaker and has promised to work with Trump if it would help the district. But Trump's visit is the latest in a flurry of GOP activity as they look to stave off what would be a crushing loss in a district they shouldn't need to spend to keep.

Trump backers dismissed the various allegations surrounding the president - including the Russian Federation investigation, accused sexual harassment, and his reported description of some countries as shitholes or shithouses - as the products of political opponents. Since joining the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2011, Saccone has spearheaded legislation that has given him the reputation of being one of the most conservative members in the state legislature.

"You can dig up up something on anybody you want", said Jack Welch, 64, a field office manager for a pipeline company who lives in Hickory, Pa.

Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with The Cook Political Report, said Trump can also try to do another thing to benefit Republican congressional candidates: Avoid abrasive comments on Twitter or in other forums.

Neither candidate has reported fundraising yet, but Doyle said Lamb had brought in more than a half-million dollars by the end of the year - an impressive figure - while a source close to Saccone's campaign would only say that he'd raised at least $100,000 by the end of 2017. No one will say.

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