- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 10, 2018

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — President Donald Trump declared Saturday that “steel is back” at a campaign rally for Republican Rick Saccone here in the heart of steel country, as he sought to give the Republican a boost in the final days of a competitive race against Democrat Conor Lamb that he being viewed as a bellwether for the midterm elections.

“Do me a favor get out on Tuesday — vote Rick Saccone,” Mr. Trump said, standing on stage before throngs of supports with a massive American flag as a backdrop.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Lamb — whom he dubbed “Lamb the sham” — is campaigning like a Republican but predicted that if the 33-year-old is elected he will vote in lockstep with Democratic leaders in Washington and against the “Make America Great Again” agenda.

“He is never going to vote for us,” Mr. Trump said.

“I hear he is nice looking,” the commander-in-chief said of Mr. Lamb. “I think I am better looking than him … Personally, I like Rick Saccone, I think he is handsome.”

The trip, the second of the campaign, illustrated the stakes of Tuesday’s special election race here in the 18th Congressional District outside Pittsburgh. The outcome could impact the energy of party activists and generosity of donors across the country ahead of the midterm elections, where Democrats hope to flip control of the U.S. House.

“There is no one I would rather have in my corner than President Trump,” Mr. Saccone said before Mr. Trump took the stage.

Mr. Trump was welcomed with chants of “USA! USA!” and signs that read “Make America Safe Again,” “Women for Trump” and “Drain the Swamp.”

Mr. Trump said the pressure his administration has put on North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un over his nuclear weapons program led to the planned talks.

He also said the tariffs he slapped on steel and aluminum imports this week are proof that he is delivering on his campaign promises he made in 2016 and that voters should give him four more years in the 2020 election.

“We are saving the steel and a lot of steel mills are now opening up because of what I did, and not all of my friends in Wall Street love it, but we love it,” Mr. Trump said. “Steel is back and aluminum is back.”

On North Korea, Mr. Trump said he thinks the nation’s leaders want “to make peace.”

“I think it is time, and I think we have shown great strength,” he said.

Polls show Mr. Lamb and Mr. Saccone are locked in a neck-and-neck race in a district that Mr. Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.

As a result, Mr. Saccone has faced some criticism from some national Republicans who are frustrated with his fundraising and worried that a loss could further energize Democrats.

Vice President Mike Pence and President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, have campaigned in the district with Mr. Saccone.

Outside national groups, including the Congressional Leadership Fund, a group aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, have poured millions of dollars in attack ads against tying Mr. Lamb to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

On Saturday, Mr. Saccone said he is the most qualified candidate in the race —touting his experience in international business, as a diplomat and as a member of the state legislature.

“My opponent has no record,” he said. “It is vitally important that you send an ally of your president and ally of your families to Washington because we have a country to save.”

“Let’s send someone from the heart of coal country who shares your values and concerns,” Mr. Saccone said. “I am battle-tested and ready to serve.”

Mr. Saccone’s supporters described him as “tough” and said he has been on the frontline of fights to stop tax increases, defend gun rights and advance the pro-life agenda.

Mr. Saccone also got a helping hand from Rep. Karen Handel of Georgia, who emerged victorious in a high-profile special election last year in the Atlanta suburbs against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

“Just Like Jon Ossoff, Conor Lamb is getting millions from progressives from out of state,” Mrs. Handel said. “He will be a reliable count-on vote for the progressive Bernie Sanders/Nancy Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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