- - Monday, March 12, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Democrats have been looking for a way to make the 2016 presidential election go away, as if it never happened. They imagined that they could do that, first, by denying that Donald Trump ever happened.

Then Maxine Waters became the face of the Democrats trying to start a movement to impeach the president. That made a lot of Democrats feel good, but the grown-ups in the party quickly understood what an absurd notion it was, and turned to winning the inevitable special congressional elections made necessary by deaths and resignations.

That hasn’t worked so well, either, despite expensive and spirited attempts to defeat Republicans in Republican redoubts in Wichita, suburban Atlanta and Montana. The best they have done is shave the Republican victory margins. But keeping the margin of defeat in the single digits is difficult to convert into a battle cry.

Some Democrats are still trying to portray the triumph of Doug Jones, the new Democratic senator in deep-red Alabama, as the harbinger of a liberal future in the Deep South, but what Mr. Jones actually accomplished was to demonstrate that a Democrat could sometimes defeat a  Republican if he could run against a Republican credibly accused of molesting teenage girls.

The latest great white hope, though it would never been so identified in Democratic parlors, hovers over the 18th Congressional District in southwestern Pennsylvania, which is a shade of red almost as deep as the color of Alabama.
Conor Lamb is the kind of Democrat that once could flourish in places like Alabama and southwest Pennsylvania. He’s a Marine Corps veteran, as he often reminds voters, and he has successfully walked a tightrope, between conservative Pennsylvania voters and liberal Democratic donors, to pose as a Conservative Lite. On the stump he sounds more like a Republican than a Democrat, and he vows to be an independent willing to make life miserable for Nancy Pelosi and the dominant Democratic left in the House.

He has promised not to vote for her to continue as speaker if the Democrats reclaim the House of Representatives, and vows that his “only bias is the one they taught us in the Marines, a bias for action.” Mrs. Pelosi and her leadership circle have looked on the promised Lamb apostasy with bemusement, tolerating anything that works because they understand that a conservative Democrat is doomed to be neutered once he arrives in Washington.

Polls, such as they are, show no clear leader in this race between Mr. Lamb and Rick Saccone, an Air Force veteran who is running as Trump 2.00. “His issue set is so orthodox,” one Republican consultant tells Jay Cost for National Review, “that it looks like he thinks his constituency is the Heritage Foundation break room.”

But for his part Mr. Lamb has carefully avoided harsh criticism of President Trump, who won the district in 2016 by 20 points. He’s counting on low turnout, which traditionally favors a candidate with no momentum, and would be delighted to win by a point or two. So would Rick Saconne.

Any kind of Democratic triumph would be portrayed in the media as Mr. Lamb riding the great “blue wave” the Democrats have been trying to locate on the horizon since they were drowned in a similar red wave 18 months ago. The pundits, both those on the editorial page and those posing as reporters, will describe any kind of Democratic triumph as surpassing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s burying Herbert Hoover in the 1932 landslide.

Everyone in Washington wants to know now that will happen in November. There’s many a pothole in the road ahead, and tea leaves can tell the curious only so much. We’ll have to wait a while for the November election returns.

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