Speed Reads

2018 elections

Trump is apparently privately trash-talking the 'weak' GOP House candidate he stumped for Saturday

President Trump said a lot of things at his Saturday night rally in suburban Pittsburgh, but he didn't say much about the candidate he was there to endorse. Trump "got business out of the way quickly Saturday night — urging voters to elect Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone, who's locked in an unexpectedly tough special election battle in Pennsylvania — before turning to the main subject of the night: himself," Politico reports. He closed with an appeal to vote for Saccone, because "we need Republicans in office."

This was Trump's second rally with Saccone, following appearances by Vice President Mike Pence, Ivanka Trump, and Kellyanne Conway. But there's a reason Trump focused on himself, Jonathan Swan says at Axios: "Trump thinks Saccone is a terrible, 'weak' candidate, according to four sources who've spoken to the president about him." Republicans have poured more than $10 million into the race, mostly to attack Saccone's Democratic opponent, Conor Lamb, who has raised nearly $4 million on his own. Trump won the district by 20 percentage points.

Republicans have complained about Saccone for months, and "the thing that most irks senior Republicans involved in the race" is that "Saccone has been a lousy fundraiser," Swan notes. "Lamb has outraised Saccone by a staggering margin — nearly 500 percent." But there's also the widespread idea that Lamb's pulling even with Saccone in a reliably red district is Trump's fault.

You "should never read too much into any one race but this is more than Saccone," Cook Political Report's Amy Walter tells Axios. "The environment today is much worse than 'normal' for Republicans. That's not because of Saccone or Lamb, but because of Trump."