The Note: In Pennsylvania’s special election, an expensive lesson for Republicans

The TAKE with Rick Klein

More than $10 million, a visit by President Donald Trump, the mobilization of the GOP army … all to buy a tie?

It’s not just any tie.

Republicans fought to almost (but not quite) even in a district Trump carried by nearly 20 points in 2016, and where Democrats had stopped bothering to even field House candidates in recent cycles. Plus, the district won’t even exist this time next year.

Whether Conor Lamb assumes a seat in Congress is almost secondary at this point. He already showed that that red can turn purple and purple can turn close to blue, in the beating heart of Trump country — even if that gets done while keeping distance between candidate and national party.

As Republicans pick up the pieces – and ponder the prospect of spending more money on Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District if Rick Saccone wants a recount – they will know well that there are easily 100 House districts that are likely to be more competitive than Pennsylvania’s special election had any right to be.

Republicans kept it closer than they feared. But that fear will only spread as the implications of this race are felt.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

The big questions now: Which party, if either, has a bigger claim to unions and blue-collar workers writ large? And did Democrats last night find their footing or at least a mold for winning in Trump country?

Special elections are weird, a unique snapshot of a particular place and time. But candidates matter, and last night’s race proved no exception. The Democrat Conor Lamb was well-poised, well-known and proved capable of threading a delicate needle in the conservative, rust-belt-ish district.

Lamb pulled off a two-fer in western Pennsylvania, turning out more voters in bluer areas of the district near Pittsburgh as well as swing voters in ruby, red areas too. For example, President Trump won Greene County, in the far southwest corner of the state, by 43 points in 2016. Tuesday night, Lamb had shrunk that margin to about 16 points.

Democrats will argue the results overall this morning means their candidates can run in any district in the fall. Arguably, every Republican who won in 2016 by fewer than 20 points has reason to be nervous this morning — and there are more in that category than Democrats need to beat to take the House.

The TIP with Tara Palmeri

Today, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Washington power brokers are hosting a fundraiser for Vice President Mike Pence’s brother Greg Pence – who is running for Congress. According to an invitation obtained by ABC News, the afternoon event at the Capitol Hill Club has suggested contributions ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Greg Pence is running in Indiana’s 6th Congressional District, the seat held by Mike Pence from 2003 to 2013. Pence has raised $565,115 according to his year-end disclosure report, according to the Indianapolis Star. Hosts include uber lobbyist Ambassador Boyden Gray, Brian Baker – adviser to the billionaire Ricketts family, the estranged wife of Rep. Mike Turner, Majida Mourad, Mike Pence’s strategist Marty Obst, Jeff Miller, a lobbyist and adviser to Energy secretary Rick Perry, AT&T lobbyist Susan Nelson and Dan Backer, a Republican campaign finance lawyer.

The Pence family is getting another boost from Ivanka Trump.

In her role as Washington power hostess, Ivanka Trump is hosting a book party for a new children’s book out by the wife and daughter of Vice President Mike Pence. The event on March 21 will be hosted at the home of Jared Kushner and Ivanka, according to an invite obtained by ABC News. The book, called “Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President,” features a story by Charlotte Pence, watercolor illustrations by Karen Pence and is an imprint by conservative publisher Regenery.



“We’re going to fight all the way to the end. You know I never give up.” – Pennsylvania Republican candidate Rick Saccone last night in response to a race too close to call.


Bellwether Pennsylvania special election too close to call. A closely watched and extremely expensive special congressional election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District remained too close to call late Tuesday. (John Verhovek, MaryAlice Parks and Emily Goodin)

Trump ousting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. President Donald Trump is firing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, tweeting Tuesday morning that he plans to replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. (Meghan Keneally, Cecilia Vega and Conor Finnegan)

Trump says he’ll select first woman to lead CIA. Trump selected career CIA official Gina Haspel in an administration shake-up announced today in which the president replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo. (Bill Hutchinson)

Federal judge: Paul Manafort faces ‘very real possibility’ of spending rest of life in prison. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison, according to a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, assigned to oversee the case. (Ali Dukakis)

Tillerson’s relationship with Trump fraught from the start. While President Donald Trump’s sudden firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shocked many, perhaps even Tillerson himself, the relationship between the two has been fraught from the start. (Justin Fishel and Conor Finnegan)

Trump supports UK claim Russia to blame for nerve agent attack. President Donald Trump Tuesday voiced strong support for British Prime Minister Theresa May a day after she alleged Russia was responsible for the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom earlier this month against a former Russian spy. (Kendall Karson)

House Democrats vow to continue Russia probe, release report on their findings. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday vowed to continue their inquiry into allegations of links between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite Republicans’ announcement Monday that they had found no evidence of collusion in the probe. (Benjamin Siegel)

Trump ‘very happy’ about GOP finding of ‘no collusion’ in Russia investigation. As he left for California Tuesday, President Donald Trump said he was “very happy” with the conclusion reached by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee that there is “no evidence of collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. (Erica Y King)

Despite doubts, Trump administration insists Russian meddling will be countered. The Trump administration is responding to critics who say it hasn’t done enough. (Katherine Faulders and Lauren Pearle)

The New York Times’ Eduardo Porter offers a look at the history of trade wars and the possible risks of President Trump’s metal tariffs.

The Washington Post reports on a weekend TV appearance by CIA Director Mike Pompeo that may suggest he knew in advance he would be replacing Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State imminently.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.

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