Trump announces campaign rally for Pa. special election candidate

Trump announces campaign rally for Pa. special election candidate
© Getty Images
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE said Thursday that he'll hold a campaign rally to support state Rep. Rick Saccone's (R-Pa.) special House election bid.
 
Trump made the announcement as he swung through the district for an event billed by the White House as an official event meant to highlight the GOP tax-reform package. 
 
ADVERTISEMENT
The president made the declaration while praising Saccone during a visit to Coraopolis, a town outside of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district.
 
Saccone will face off against Democrat Conor Lamb in a March special election to represent that district. While the district backed Trump in last year's presidential race, the GOP is eager to prevent Lamb from pulling off an upset win and adding to Democratic momentum ahead of the midterm elections.
 
Repeating a reporter's question about Trump's opinion of Saccone's declaration that he was "Trump before Trump," the president praised the GOP congressional hopeful. 
 
"Rick is a great guy, I think he's going to do really well. He's a great guy, loves this area, loves this country," Trump said during a visit to manufacturing company H&K Equipment, noting how Saccone greeted him as he arrived on Air Force One. 
 
"I said to him, 'I hope you're going to do as well.' We are going to be helping him, I'll be back for Rick, and we are going to fill up a stadium and do something really special," Trump said. 
 
A few minutes later, during Trump's remarks, he called out to Saccone as "a person people are hearing more and more about, a real friend and a spectacular man." 
 
Trump's visit to the district highlights the flood of Republican resources descending on the conservative district in the hopes of heading off any potential Democratic gains there. While Trump won the area by almost 20 points in 2016, Democratic overperformance in reliably Republican areas has made some Democrats bullish on Lamb's campaign. 
 
But Trump's visit to the district, as well as his characterization of his trip, raised questions about the motivations behind his visit to one of the only districts holding a special election in 2018. 
 
The White House billed the event as an official trip meant to tout the president's success helping to get the GOP's tax reform plan into law. But a Trump tweet from Thursday morning appeared to frame the purpose of the trip as a political one, "to give my total support to RICK SACCONE." 
 
That tweet put the White House in a tough spot, since political campaigns are supposed to reimburse the administration for any portion of an official trip that includes political activity. 
 
The White House denied any political motivation behind the trip in a statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She told reporters that, "While the President has made clear his support for Republican candidates throughout the country, including in Pennsylvania, the purpose of today's visit is to promote the President's successful agenda, especially on taxes."