The Republican effort to turn House races into referendums on Nancy Pelosi will continue today, when the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, begins the fourth TV ad buy in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. As in a previous spot from CLF, a spot from the Ending Spending super PAC, and one from the National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic nominee Conor Lamb is linked with Pelosi and her warnings about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
“Businesses are giving workers raises and bonuses and creating jobs,” a narrator says in the new ad, as reports of pay raises at Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank flash on-screen. “Yet Nancy Pelosi and Conor Lamb are still opposing your tax cut. Lamb called it a complete betrayal. And Pelosi said: This is Armageddon.”
The omnipresence of Pelosi in the race comes with a twist: Lamb, like several Democrats in swing and red districts, has said he will not back Pelosi if he gets to Congress. Pelosi has stayed away from the race; a recent opposition research hit linking the candidate to the Democratic leader relied on how Pennsylvania Democrats who had “aligned themselves with Pelosi” were raising money for Lamb, who will face Republican candidate Rick Saccone in the March 13 special election.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, scoffed at the latest attempt to drag her into the race.
“When Speaker Ryan touts a $1.50 a week tax cut, the American people very clearly understand the benefit to the middle class is minuscule compared to the multibillion-dollar windfalls Republican donors are getting,” he said. “With Republicans retiring in historic numbers and burning millions upon millions in deep red districts, the GOP desperation is getting so thick you could cut it with a knife.”
The CLF, which has run ads in three special House races, has focused on Pelosi every time. On Monday, President Trump made the strategy even more explicit, telling a crowd in Ohio that Pelosi was a “secret weapon” for Republicans in 2018, and characterizing her as “a rich woman who lives in a big, beautiful house in California.” (Pelosi’s net worth has been estimated at $29.35 million. Trump’s has been estimated in the billions, but he has declined to release his tax records after saying during the 2016 presidential campaign that he would eventually do so. )
Democrats who’ve campaigned for Lamb say that he’s been able to cut through the Republican messaging — a message that the CLF, by itself, has put $1.7 million behind in the district.
“I think people in western Pennsylvania realize that he’d be a generational shift, and that he’s calling for new leadership on both sides,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who challenged Pelosi after the 2016 elections and has sent out fundraising emails for Lamb. “He’s done a good job of saying, look, I’m a Marine, and this is about country above party, country above status quo, country above the establishment.”