In the months after September 1, 1939, after war was declared but before Germany mounted its blitzkrieg offensive, observers were puzzled that Hitler was temporizing. They called it a Sitzkrieg, a sit-down war. Then, in the spring of 1940, the Nazis smashed through much of Europe in a matter of weeks.
Excuse the analogy, but political observers, waiting for the full ferocity of Koch brothers money, have been puzzled that the Republicans have allowed Democrats to take back some 39 Republican-held state legislature and city council seats, and not flooded the zone with cash. Has the right-wing money machine been overrated?
We will soon find out. More likely, the high rollers were sitting out the minor races, but the Sitzkrieg is over.
Now comes a higher-stakes contest—the special election on March 13 for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District in greater Pittsburgh. The seat is vacant because the incumbent, a fiercely anti-abortion Republican named Tim Murphy, pressured his mistress to abort what turned out to be a false-alarm pregnancy, and resigned in disgrace. But I digress.
The Democrat, Conor Lamb, a Marine Corps captain and one-time federal prosecutor, was actually ahead of the lackluster Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, in the money derby, about $3.8 million raised to just $1 million for Saccone, according to last week’s filings.
But then the Republican money machine went into high gear. As of this week, according to a tabulationby The Wall Street Journal,
GOP-affiliated groups—including the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP’s campaign arm; the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan; the Republican National Committee; and two pro-Trump PACs, 45Committee and America First Action—have poured about $9.1 million into the Pittsburgh-area race.
Saccone, now flush with cash, is flooding the airwaves with negative ads, branding Lamb a tool of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and of course of Hillary Clinton. Will it work?
This is steel country. Trump is coming to campaign for Saccone, and you have to wonder about the timing of his steel tariff announcement.
Trump carried the district by 19 points, but recent polls have shown Democrat Lamb narrowly ahead. The district has a slight Democratic registration, even though the disgraced Murphy regularly carried it by double digits.
If big money makes a big difference in this race, it is a warning to Democrats counting on a blue wave in November. And if the Republican loses or even notches a narrow win, it will be a sign that even Koch money can’t buy you love.