Conor Lamb, the Democrat running in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. Credit: Conor Lamb/YouTube

A week from today, there will be a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District and the Republicans are spending like mad to win it. I could give you a long drawn out description of the candidates and the dynamics of the race but I prefer to cut right to the chase.

Which makes this more than curious.

Whoever wins next Tuesday, they will only serve in Congress until early January of next year. In November, the closest thing resembling the 18th congressional district will be the newly redrawn 14th congressional district. The difference is that in the current 18th, Trump cleaned Clinton’s clock 58 percent-39 percent and in the new 14th he did even better (63 percent-34 percent). In other words, even if Conor Lamb, the Democrat running slightly ahead in a recent poll, pulls out a narrow victory in the special election, he’s unlikely to hold the seat.

This is one reason not to particularly care that Lamb has promised not to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. He’ll almost definitely never get the chance to cast a vote for Speaker. But it’s also a reason for the Republicans to save their money. Why dump an extra $619,664.37 into this race when it simply doesn’t matter who wins?

The Republicans have a handful of truly vulnerable incumbents and open seats to defend in Pennsylvania, including my Congressman Ryan Costello’s seat in the 6th District. But it appears that this is all being done, as Benjy Sarlin says, for bragging rights. The difference is that the Republicans have now dumped $3.5 million into the race and, as of late February, four conservative groups had “purchased $4.7 million in television and radio ads.” On the Democratic side, the DCCC has spent $250,100 and the House Majority PAC has purchased no ads.

Of course, Conor Lamb is upset that he hasn’t received more help, but the Democrats seem to have made an investment commensurate with the upside potential of victory. Bragging rights aren’t worth nothing, after all.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Republicans are still spending all this money even after it has become clear that the seat will cease to exist next year. They should be able to hold this seat regardless of what happens next Tuesday and I am not even sure Lamb will try to defend it. If I were him, I’d go looking for another easier seat to win, like the neighboring 17th District to the north.

To be honest, though, there’s not a lot I see the Republicans doing these days that I consider rational.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at