The morning after Democrats eked out a probable narrow win in a formerly pro-Trump district in Pennsylvania, House Republican leaders publicly waved away the result as a fluke and doubled down on the idea that their tax cut bill will save them from a blue wave in this November’s midterm elections.
“This is something you’re not going to see repeated,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) insisted on Wednesday, moments after he reportedly told his caucus behind closed doors that the flipped seat was a “wakeup call” for Republicans.
Ryan told reporters that Democrat Conor Lamb “ran as a pro-gun, pro-life, anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative.” He did not mention that Lamb also ran a staunchly pro-union, pro-Obamacare and anti-GOP tax bill race, or that Lamb has said publicly that he will not vote for abortion restrictions favored by Republicans.
Ryan also claimed that “there are more Democrats in that district than Republicans,” though President Donald Trump won the district by 20 points in 2016. Though the race has been viewed by both parties as a brutal referendum on Trump’s presidency and a sign of building Democratic enthusiasm ahead of November’s midterm elections, where many far more purple districts will be contested, Ryan insisted that Trump did not negatively impact the special election.
He insisted that Trump’s inability to help Republican candidate Rick Saccone over the finish line was still a victory, and referenced Trump’s trip to the district last week to stump for Saccone, the likely loser in Tuesday’s race.
“The public polling wasn’t looking so good, and the President came in and helped close this race to where it is now, which is within a few hundred votes,” Ryan said.
When a reporter tried to point out that Lamb ran against Ryan’s tax plan. Ryan ignored her and asked the gathered press corps, “Is there anything else anyone wants to talk about?”
Other members of House leadership offered their own spin Wednesday morning.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) attributed the likely Republican loss to the fact that “we aren’t even on full momentum on tax reform.” She cautioned the press to “be careful about making sweeping predictions.”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), however, revealed some of the deeper anxiety Republicans are feeling about their political prospects going forward during his turn at the podium. He described in detail his nightmare scenario of what could happen if Democrats retake the House this November.
“They said if they get the majority, their bill will raise taxes, and they go and double down by jacking up the death tax even more and they reinstate the Alternative Minimum Tax, which would cripple middle class families,” he said. “So it’s a great contrast to show what will happen if Nancy Pelosi is elected Speaker.”