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Trump raising money for Rick Saccone ahead of Saturday campaign rally

Wes Venteicher
| Wednesday, March 7, 2018, 1:21 p.m.
Rick Saccone and wife, Yong Saccone, wave at guests prior to President Trump's remarks at H&K Equipment in North Fayette earlier this month.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Rick Saccone and wife, Yong Saccone, wave at guests prior to President Trump's remarks at H&K Equipment in North Fayette earlier this month.
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump's plane taxis up to the hangar greeted by a capacity crowd at Atlantic Aviation in Moon Township, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump's plane taxis up to the hangar greeted by a capacity crowd at Atlantic Aviation in Moon Township, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016.

President Trump is raising money for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone in advance of his visit Saturday to Western Pennsylvania.

In a Tuesday night fundraising email, Trump called Saccone a “dedicated conservative leader.” He didn't mention Democratic candidate Conor Lamb by name but referred to Saccone's opponent as “another puppet for Nancy Pelosi.”

Saccone, a state representative from Elizabeth Township, faces the former federal prosecutor Lamb in a March 13 special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned in October amid an extramarital sex scandal. The congressional district includes parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties. Trump won the district by 19 percentage points in 2016, and Democrats never mounted a serious threat to the GOP's Murphy in eight elections, but recent polling shows a tight race between Saccone and Lamb.

Trump said all money donated will go “directly toward Rick's fight against the big-name Democrats who want to steal this race from the American people.” The president called the contest the “most crucial race in the country.”

Trump backed losing candidates in a U.S. Senate race in Alabama and a governor's race in Virginia. Some political observers view the Pennsylvania race as a bellwether for how Democrats might perform in November's midterm elections.

Philip Harold, a Robert Morris University political science professor, expects Trump to deliver a familiar message Saturday to a region that has been important to his own political success.

Saturday's event will mark the 20th rally Trump has held in Pennsylvania and his fifth in the Pittsburgh region since 2015, including a late-night stop two days before the 2016 election at the same Pittsburgh International Airport hangar he'll visit this weekend.

Harold expects Trump to talk about trade, a focal point of his remarks during his appearance two days before the presidential election. In that speech, he criticized the Bill Clinton-supported North American Free Trade Agreement, which is now being renegotiated, and said, “We are bringing steel back to Pennsylvania like it used to be.”

“Coming and hammering away at that issue I think is smart,” Harold said. “Even if people aren't familiar with the economic arguments, showing that you are on the side of the people who have been left behind in this globalization push is very significant. Whether or not it brings back jobs, it's a signal to a constituency that you're behind them.”

Trump last week announced a plan to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports, a move that he said would help “regrow” those industries in the United States. The proposal has been met with backlash among some Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.

A Trump campaign spokesman said the president would focus his remarks on recent tax reforms and “celebrate our booming economy now that America is once again open for business.”

Trump last visited Pittsburgh on Jan. 18, when he gave a 20-minute speech at H&K Equipment in North Fayette. He briefly mentioned Saccone during that appearance.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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