The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) released its list of targeted races for 2018 with only one Pennsylvania Congressman. Matt Cartwright (D-Lackawanna), whose district Trump won by 10.7 points, was the only Pennsylvania Congressman on the list.
Defense will be the NRCC’s top priority, but will look for seats it can win to expand its majority.
“The success of our government depends on Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House. We owe the American people assurance that the agenda we were elected on — healthcare reform, a stronger national defense, and more good-paying jobs – is fulfilled,” NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said in the announcement.
Trump won PA-17 by 10.7 points according to Decision Desk. Cartwright won by 7.6 points: outperforming Clinton by double digits, but close enough to take seriously.
“We noticed that Trump won the district, I think it is more the people being desperate for economic change,” Cartwright said in an interview with PoliticsPA
Cartwright says his focus will be on improving his constituents’ lives over the next two years.
“The people in the 17th district are my people, and they are crying for help. I am resolved redouble my efforts to create a better direction for northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley,” Cartwright said.
Cartwright’s 7.6 point win over Matt Connelly, a former race car driver, was narrower than his 13.5 point margin in 2014 and 20.6 point margin in 2012.
In Cartwright’s 2016 election he raised and spent over $860,000, according to opensecrets.org.
No Cartwright general election opponent has ever raised or spent more than $100,000. Connolly spent $31,000.
Cartwright has brought forward $561,069 cash on hand into 2017.
It’s no surprise the 17th district is on the national radar. After Trump’s surprise win, national news outlets descended on Northeast PA. “Why did Trump win? Just visit Luzerne County, Pennsylvania” declared in a headline in Newsweek. Only three counties flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and Cartwright’s district includes two of them.
The battle will be if Republicans can get the voters who supported Obama in his two runs to come out in a non-Presidential year to vote for Republicans. The push by the NRCC to try to win seats that ticket split between President and Congress will test how long Trump’s coattails will be during his term in office.