The PA-18 race isn’t over yet (there could still be a recount), but even the prospect of a narrow win by Democratic candidate Conor Lamb is being taken as a sign by Democrats looking for a path to victory in 2018. Republicans spent millions on ads tying Lamb to Nancy Pelosi. That attempt to nationalize the race and tie the Dem candidate to the unpopular party leader has worked for Republicans in the past. But this time, Lamb came out of the gate distancing himself from Pelosi, saying he would not support her for Speaker if Democrats took back the House. He even ran this ad pointing to his anti-Pelosi bona fides.
For Democrats looking to follow in Lamb’s footsteps, the need to throw Pelosi under the bus early and often is one of the big takeaways of this race. From Politico:
A half-dozen Democratic House members and candidates told POLITICO in interviews that they had been closely monitoring how Lamb handled the Pelosi attack…
With Lamb expected to prevail narrowly, Democrats are predicting that others will parrot Lamb’s tactics and run against the party’s leader in the House.
A campaign manager for a Democratic candidate in a Republican-held district, granted anonymity to candidly discuss party strategy, said there’s a “100 percent chance that we’ll see more rejection of Pelosi from [Democratic] candidates going forward.”
“Two things will happen: More Democrats are going to say they don’t support Pelosi, and Republicans will keep airing these Pelosi TV ads,” predicted another Democratic strategist who works on House races. “The ads are unavoidable, but the question is, do they work anymore?”
Democrats on Capitol Hill said they’re already hearing from other candidates seeking counsel about whether they should take the same tack as Lamb.
It’s too soon to tell if this is going to work, but we’re going to see many Democrats try it out this fall. One other factor to consider here. Lamb didn’t face a primary opponent, which meant he was free to move right without worrying about a Bernie Bro on his left competing to take away progressive votes. Ditching Pelosi could play differently in a race that does feature a primary contest.