Here’s Another Reason Pennsylvania’s New Congressional Map Is Bad News for Donald Trump

And great news for Conor Lamb.

Donald Trump

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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Democrats got some good news over the long weekend when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a new map for the state’s 18 congressional districts. If it survives a federal lawsuit from Republicans, the court-drawn map will replace what had been one of the most lopsided GOP gerrymanders in the country with a system that more closely reflects Pennsylvania’s swing-state nature. The court’s actions also bumped Democrats past a symbolic threshold: The number of Republicans around the country representing seats carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 went from 23 to 25—one more than the number of seats Democrats need to win to take back the House. The significance of the court decision wasn’t lost on President Donald Trump.

But the map also has ramifications for next month’s special election to replace former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned last October after allegedly pressuring a woman he had an affair with to get an abortion. Although the 18th district went to Trump by a large margin, polls have placed Democrat Conor Lamb, a Marine and former prosecutor, just a few points back of Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone. Lamb has been boosted by an unusual frenzy of progressive activism from both inside and outside the district.

The 18th district race was awkward, by special election standards, in part because the looming redistricting decision threatened to immediately make the winner into a lame duck. But the new map takes care of that problem for Democrats. The old gerrymandered map had just one reliably Democratic seat—held by Pittsburgh Rep. Mike Doyle—in all of western Pennsylvania. Doyle’s district is surrounded by a sea of Trump-loving districts like the 18th.

The new map adds a swing district to the mix. The new district, which includes portions of Pittsburgh and the northern suburbs, isn’t deep blue like Doyle’s, but it’s very winnable for Democrats—Trump carried it by just 3 points. Notably, it also includes Conor Lamb’s residence. So if Lamb wins in March, he’d likely have to face off against Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus if he wants to keep his job—but in a district that’s 18 points more Democratic than the one Lamb is running in now. And even if Lamb loses in March, he might have a better shot in November.

That’s a lot of variables, but Democrats need a lot of things to go right in their bid to retake the House. In Pennsylvania, they’ll take the small victories for now.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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