Trump: Voters must support GOP in Pittsburgh-area House race

A cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump sits against the wall as Rick Saccone, Republican Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania’s 18th district, speaks to reporters at the Republican Committee of Allegheny County offices, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (AFP)
Updated 11 March 2018
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Trump: Voters must support GOP in Pittsburgh-area House race

MOON TOWNSHIP: President Donald Trump told western Pennsylvania voters Saturday night that his new tariffs were saving the steel industry and urged them to send a Republican to the House so he can keep delivering those kinds of results.
The president lent his weight to Republican Rick Saccone in the final days of a surprisingly competitive special election outside Pittsburgh that could reverberate nationally ahead of the November midterm elections.
“We need our Congressman Saccone,” Trump said, unabashedly framing the race as a tune-up for the GOP’s efforts to maintain its control of Capitol Hill. Hitting peak campaign mode for himself, he revived many of his favorite 2016 riffs and even touted his planned 2020 slogan, “Keep America Great!“
But, the president warned, “we can only do that if we elect people who are going to back our agenda,” repeatedly urging his backers to support Saccone and stave off an upset by Democrat Conor Lamb in a district the president won by 20 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.
“The people of Pittsburgh cannot be conned by this guy Lamb,” Trump said, dismissing Lamb’s efforts to run as a moderate Democrat. “He’s never going to vote for us. He can say, ‘I love President Trump.’ ... I don’t want to meet him. I might like him.”
Democrats need to flip 24 GOP-held seats to claim a House majority. A victory in such a Republican-leaning district would boost their hopes and renew GOP concerns of a bad November.
Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine veteran and former prosecutor, has positioned himself as more representative of the district than Saccone, a 60-year-old state lawmaker. Lamb touts his resume and declares that he wouldn’t vote for Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi as party leader. He also avoids criticizing Trump.
Trump conceded Lamb might not back Pelosi but said most House Democrats will. And if Pelosi were in charge of the House, Trump said, Lamb would simply “vote the party line.”
While Trump was ostensibly in Pennsylvania for Saccone, the rally was as much about the president as it was an underperforming congressional candidate. The president repeatedly reminisced about his election, when Pennsylvania helped put him over the top after decades of landing in the Democrats’ column.
The president criticized Democrats for blocking his long-promised border wall and attacked so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. He also called for harsher punishments for drug dealers, including the death penalty, pointing to China and Singapore as models
Trump continued his attacks on the press, criticizing media coverage of his decision to meet with the leader of North Korea and complaining that he doesn’t get credit for accomplishments. He singled out NBC’s Chuck Todd as a “sleeping son of a bitch.”
He also made sure the workers in this industrial-heavy region see the new steel tariffs as “my baby,” even as Lamb and Saccone have endorsed the move. Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has an estimated 17,000 steelworkers and almost 90,000 voters from union households.
“Not all of our friends on Wall Street love it, but we love it,” Trump said of the tariffs. He added that Lamb’s party leadership opposes his protectionist policy. He sidestepped the fact that most of his own party’s leaders oppose tariffs, as well.
Trump’s appearance was part of a White House push to help Saccone avoid a once-unlikely defeat. National GOP forces could exceed $10 million in spending on the race, and Saturday was the president’s second recent visit to the area. But Trump risked another embarrassing defeat after backing Republican Roy Moore in last December’s Alabama Senate election, only to watch Moore lose a seat his party had held since 1997.
The Pennsylvania special election is to replace Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned last year amid revelations of an extramarital affair in which the anti-abortion lawmaker urged his mistress to get an abortion when he thought she was pregnant.
Murphy, an eight-term congressman who had union support, never had a close election and had no Democratic challenger in his last two elections. But Saccone has struggled with his own fundraising, is a union foe and hasn’t run as aggressive a campaign as Lamb, prompting criticism from Republicans in Washington who quietly concede Lamb is a stronger candidate.
Trump acknowledged those dynamics, noting talk of Lamb as a handsome candidate. But he said he thinks he’s better looking, and added that Saccone “is handsome,” too.
For his part, Saccone was thrilled to have the president’s help.
“The president’s support is key to attaining victory,” Saccone told rally attendees about 45 minutes before Trump took the stage. “There’s no one that I would rather have in my corner that President Trump. Are you with me on that?“


Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

Updated 10 min 29 sec ago
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Modi’s party abandons Kashmir alliance

  • Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state
  • A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quit the ruling coalition in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, blaming its regional partner for a rise in militancy and growing security concerns.
Shortly after the BJP withdrew support from the coalition it formed in early 2015, Mehbooba Mufti, head of its alliance partner the People's Democratic Party (PDP), resigned as the state’s chief minister.
The state will now be ruled by the governor until elections take place.
BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav said on Tuesday that continuing in government had become “untenable.”
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech,” he said. “There is grave concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state.”
Kashmir has been at the heart of a dispute between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan over territorial rights. In past months there have been several outbreaks of violence. More than 130 people have been killed in the state this year and at least 120 men have joined extrremist groups.
The BJP move came a day after New Delhi ended a cease-fire against militants for Ramadan.
Last week, extremists shot and killed the editor of a local Kashmiri newspaper and abducted and killed a Kashmiri soldier on his way home to celebrate Eid.
Experts say a political split has been on the cards.
“For the BJP it had become impossible to continue,” said Happymon Jacob, associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. “Ideologically, the two are completely different parties.”
By aligning with PDP — viewed by many as a soft separatist party because it supports talks with Pakistan — the BJP lost face with its Hindu right-wing base, he said.
“But the biggest loser is the PDP. Mufti has no face left, no political mileage, and she will have no stakes in Jammu and Kashmir whenever fresh elections take place.”
The BJP, on the other hand, has now strengthened its rule in the state since the governor does what New Delhi tells him, Jacob said. That includes appointing advisers suggested by the BJP to act as de-facto ministers until a new government is formed.
“They are the victors here,” said Jacob.
Mufti said that her party would continue to seek dialogue and reconciliation in the state.
“We had always said muscular security policy will not work in Jammu and Kashmir. The state can’t be treated as enemy territory. Reconciliation is the key,” she told The Indian Express.
The BJP-PDP alliance, the report quoted her saying, was not for power but to get confidence-building measures put in place.
A divide between the partners was visible even last month when New Delhi announced the cease-fire. At the time, BJP’s state unit said the truce would “demoralize security forces.”