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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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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