President Trump has yet to tweet about Tuesday’s stunning special-election result in Pennsylvania, where Democratic nominee Conor Lamb is the apparent victor in a district Trump won by 20 points.
But on Wednesday evening, during private remarks at a fundraiser for Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley, he reportedly weighed in on the loss, relaying GOP talking points that attempt to downplay the nature of Lamb’s declared victory.
In the midst of talking about the Republican tax overhaul, Trump began criticizing Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), according to a transcript of the remarks obtained by The Washington Post. (The Atlantic first reported some of the quotes last night).
“We had no Democrat votes,” the president said, referring to his party’s tax plan. “[Democratic Sen.] Claire McCaskill was against it because she’s party line. It’s not that she was against it. She’s party line. She’s going to go with the party line."
Trump then pivoted to Lamb, who holds a narrow lead against Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone, in a district the president won in 2016 by almost 20 points.
“It’s like the young man last night that ran, he said, oh, I’m like Trump,” the president falsely said. “He said, I, I, you know, Second Amendment, all, everything. I love the tax cuts. Everything. You wouldn’t have known.”
He then went on to say, according to the transcript, that Lamb would act as a rubber stamp for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), which was a constant attack line used by Republicans in the PA-18 race.
“It’s a pretty smart race, actually,” Trump continued. “But he ran and he ran on that basis. But the bottom line is when he votes, he’s going to vote with Nancy Pelosi. He’s going to vote with Pelosi, he’s going to vote with Schumer, and that’s what’s going to happen. And there’s nothing he can do about it, he’s not going to vote with the Republicans. So it doesn’t matter, what he feels doesn’t matter.”
Trump added that Lamb “said very nice things about me. I kept saying, is he a Republican? He sounded like a Republican to me.”
The president’s remarks mirror some of the talking points echoed by Trump’s favorite cable show, Fox & Friends, and by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), attempting to dismiss Saccone’s loss by claiming Lamb ran as a conservative or a Republican.
While Lamb told The Daily Beast last month that he would be willing to work with the president on particular issues that would benefit his constituency, he absolutely did not run as a conservative.
Particularly when it comes to the Republicans’ tax reform, Lamb ran in the polar opposite direction of the GOP. He called it a “giveaway” to large corporations and a “betrayal” of middle-class Americans. A great deal of his rhetoric was centered around opposing any potential Republican efforts to slash spending for Social Security and Medicare, and Lamb even said Ryan was “giving away our tax dollars to the wealthy and big corporations” on his website.
In fact, the Republican Party put a research page on its website blasting Lamb and saying he “Walks The Liberal Party Line And Opposed Tax Cuts For Pennsylvanians.” Among other comments, it includes a line from Lamb saying last December that “I don’t see how it addresses any of the real problems that we have in this district,” referring to the Republican tax measure.
Lamb did align with the president on his newly announced steel and aluminum tariffs, which actually puts Lamb at odds with a major portion of Republicans in Congress.
To say, as Trump did, that Lamb loves the “tax cuts,” belies the messaging of Trump’s own party throughout the election.