What Conor Lamb and Rick Saccone want 18th district voters to take from all those TV ads

The battle for Tim Murphy’s former seat is being waged on the airwaves.

Rick Saccone, left, and Conor Lamb, right.

Rick Saccone, left, and Conor Lamb, right.


By the end of this thing, the money spent on the 18th congressional district special election will almost certainly rival the GDPs of some developing nations. That’s thanks in no small part to a howitzer assault of television ads currently streaming across the airwaves here.

The ads — and their frequencies — make one thing crystal clear: Republicans are desperate to retain the seat vacated by former congressman Tim Murphy last year in a hail of scandal and willing to spend bigly in the process. Meanwhile, Democrats are desperate to pull the seat out from under them — but you already knew that.

Less obvious, maybe, is what these ads are doing, how they’re doing it and what they say about the candidates — Conor Lamb, a Democrat, former federal prosecutor, Marine Corps veteran and member of a politically prominent Pittsburgh family, and Rick Saccone, an Air Force veteran, firebrand Republican state representative and self-proclaimed precursor to President Donald Trump — and their respective ends of the electorate.

So we asked the experts about the themes they detect, what the ads are trying to achieve and whether or not they think they’ll work. Here’s what they told us.

‘Nancy had a little Lamb’

The pro-Saccone ads contain a multitude of personalities, most of them machismo-laden.

There’s the tough-on-terror Rick Saccone; The tough-on-North-Korea Rick Saccone; The firewall-against-the-liberal-agenda Rick Saccone and a more bipartisan portrayal of the candidate thrown in for good measure.

Beyond that, the Democrats — and two in particular — are a prevalent focus of the GOP’s ads in this race.

There are entire ad spots linking Lamb to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a frequent target of Trump and a favored villain among his base, in the most overt terms possible.