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High profile Republicans — including President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — have rallied around State Rep. Rick Saccone, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran, to help shore up his bid to win the House seat in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election.
It is a contest that is seen as a bellwether for the 2018 midterms and the latest referendum on the political impact of Trump's presidency. So far, some polls show the race within 5 points in a district that Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016.
For his part, Saccone has grasped tightly onto Trump’s agenda, campaigning on the slogan “defending the taxpayer” and thrown his support behind Republican tax reform and cuts, border security and repealing and replacing Obamacare.
Trump joined Saccone on the trail on Saturday in a last effort to sway voters ahead of Tuesday’s special election, calling on Pennsylvanians to elect the candidate who will keep “the agenda 'Make America Great' going.”
“I could not have asked for a stronger endorsement of our campaign ahead of the March 13 special election,” Saccone said after Saturday's rally.
However, the GOP candidate has faced an uphill battle on fundraising and his opponent, Democrat Conor Lamb, has far out-raised him and left him reliant on outside spending to combat the money gap.
Here’s a rundown of Saccone’s political history and unexpectedly tough campaign in the battleground state that delivered Trump the presidency.
An unusual resume
Saccone is pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-Trump conservative whose support for the GOP tax cuts, strengthening the military, and increasing border security closely align with the president’s views. He once even called himself “Trump before Trump was Trump.”
However, when it comes to campaigning, Saccone diverges with Trump’s successful strategy of running as an outsider, instead boasting of his decades of experience in Pennsylvania politics.
While the GOP candidate underscores his record in the state legislature, he also brings a wide-ranging resume to national politics.
The four-term state representative served in the United States Air Force as a special agent and is a former diplomatic representative in North Korea during President George W. Bush's adminsitration.