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What candidates in Pa.’s closest congressional race are telling voters days before the election

The midterm election, Democrat Scott Wallace, is about "that crazy guy down there" in the White House.

On November 3, 2018, Democrat Scott Wallace (right) stumped for votes at a bus tour in Chalfont with Gov. Tom Wolf (left) and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
On November 3, 2018, Democrat Scott Wallace (right) stumped for votes at a bus tour in Chalfont with Gov. Tom Wolf (left) and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.Read moreTIM TAI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

With less than 72 hours to go until the polls open Tuesday, Scott Wallace stood inside a tidy living room in Lansdale, surrounded by more than a dozen excited and anxious volunteers.

The 67-year-old Democrat is running for Congress in Bucks County's First District, one of the most expensive and hotly contested races in the nation — where, with a win, he could help his party take back the U.S. House.

His opponent, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, is a self-described centrist Republican who has led most recent polls by a slim margin in the district, which includes a part of Montgomery County.

"I talked to someone yesterday who said, 'That Brian guy, he's a Democrat, isn't he?' " Wallace said to the crowd. "He runs around saying he's an independent, never mentions the word Republican."

Wallace instructed his supporters, as they knocked on voters' doors this weekend, to not "be embarrassed to use the term Democrat or Republican." The midterm election, he told them, is about "that crazy guy down there" in the White House.

Wallace, a multimillionaire philanthropist, has sought throughout the campaign to tie his rival to President Trump — while Fitzpatrick has eschewed his party's ID.

"I don't like and have never liked injecting labels like that," Fitzpatrick said Saturday. "I just think that people should talk about what their principles are, talk about what they believe in."

Democrats have a small registration edge in Bucks County, which makes up a large portion of the First District. But voters here are known to split their tickets — Bucks County supported Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in 2016 — and Fitzpatrick has strong name identification.

Several political analysts have called the race a toss-up.

Wallace spent the last Saturday before the election rallying volunteers, greeting voters at their doors, and attending a bus tour with Gov. Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey, two Democrats who are leading their races by double digits in the latest polls.

Fitzpatrick shook hands at a veterans' exhibition, an Eagle Scout ceremony, and gatherings for the Hindu festival of lights, known as Diwali. He discussed upcoming events, like the Bucks County Tour of Honor, and constituents' issues.

At the Doylestown American Legion, Fitzpatrick questioned Trump's closing pitch ahead of the midterm election. In recent weeks, the president has stoked fears about a caravan of Latin American migrants heading north to this country and floated a plan to end birthright citizenship.

"I think it should be focused on the economy," he said, arguing that GOP tax cuts have been a boon to business and jobs. "People are happy with the economic status of the country right now."

Still, some Fitzpatrick voters in Bucks County said immigration was a top issue.

>> VOTERS GUIDE: The races, candidates, and issues in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware

"I want the laws followed," said Scott Russell, a Plumstead resident who attended Saturday's veterans event. "Letting in illegal immigrants is all very negative to me."

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Democratic Party's second-ranking member in the Senate, was part of the bus tour of Bucks County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia, where Wallace and other candidates stumped for votes. Durbin predicted the Democrats would emerge from the general election with 51 Senate seats, retaking the majority.

"The latest tracking poll yesterday had us in two races of incumbents where we were down a point or two points," said Durbin, declining to name those candidates. "We're winning the others and we're picking up seats in Nevada and Arizona as of yesterday. So it is really up for grabs."

Speaking to a crowd of about 150 outside a ShopRite in Cheltenham, across the street from Philadelphia's northwestern border, Durbin said "you've got one of the best" senators, pointing to Casey, who is seeking a third term, challenged by Rep. Lou Barletta.

"We've got to make sure that all of us who have been complaining and griping for two years get up and vote," Durbin said to cheers.

Philadelphia Rep. Dwight Evans said Democrats' hopes of taking the majority in the House depended on the Keystone State.

"Pennsylvania is the backbone of this movement," he said. "We need 23 seats. We have 18 in Pennsylvania. In order to make a change in the majority, it comes to Pennsylvania."