this is "nightline." >> tonight -- >> usa! >> fight for the future. in this pennsylvania battleground republicans sending in their big guns for a congressional special election. >> hello pennsylvania! >> why some say a backlash against the president could soon turn this red district blue. plus, ladies first. sarah hendrickson, the first woman ever to compete in the olympic ski jump, teaching us how to hang high. >> that was pretty good. >> so why were women kept out of this sport until four years ago? >> for lack of a filter, our uteruses would fall out, we weren't strong enough. >> how she's making her comeback and going for gold after a brutal injury. and battle of the ads. everyone's talking about their favorite super bowl ads from the human m&ms.
good evening. thanks for joining us. tonight we take you inside a pennsylvania special election that some see as a referendum on president trump. despite low approval ratings, many voters in this red district appear to be standing by their man. but can union members and women voters give the democrats a boost? here's my "nightline" co-anchor dan harris with the first installment in our series "eighteen for '18." >> usa! usa! >> reporter: not a huge crowd here, but they've got gusto. >> hello, pennsylvania! >> reporter: a rare campaign stop for the vice president. >> would you give another round of applause for the next congressman from the commonwealth of pennsylvania, rick saccone. >> reporter: pennsylvania's 18th congressional district has become the latest battleground in america's bitter partisan political fight. >> they're bringing out the big
guns here in southwestern pennsylvania today for republican candidate rick saccone. >> reporter: rick saccone, who's 59 and his democratic opponent conor lamb who's just 33 are facing off in a special election on march 13th for a seat vacated last fall after republican congressman tim murphy resigned amidst a sex scandal. with president trump's approval ratings hovering around 40% -- >> we need to support the president and rick saccone. >> reporter: -- republicans are pulling out all the stops. president trump himself showed twoup weeks ago to support saccone. >> a real friend and a spectacular man. rick saccone. >> reporter: a loss here could signal the start of a potential blue wave backlash against the president. >> if saccone wins by single digits, that will be a barometer of the enthusiasm gap for republicans in districts that have a considerable amount of democrats who crossed over to vote for trump. then even though it's a win it still should concern republicans
that in other districts, that that enthusiasm gap is there. >> usa! usa! >> reporter: at least in this room, though, there seems to be broad support for trump. karen kiefer came with her daughter tory and her bling. >> our vice president and our president are working so hard for we, the forgotten men, women and children in america. the standard of living is improving. new businesses are coming into town. it's marvelous. >> reporter: pennsylvania's 18th congressional district is a mix of suburbs and rural areas where trump beat hillary clinton by double digits. the district also includes a significant population of union members, a voting bloc that typically goes democrat. we met three union members on their lunch break, two of whom say they're going democrat this time. >> we need somebody out there that's going to represent us, going to make sure they stand for us. because guess what? we don't have a fight. they've got to fight for us up there. and i believe conor lamb is the guy that's going to do that. >> do you have a candidate you like? >> yes. rick saccone. i'm a republican of course.
but i think he has the experience. >> reporter: when you vote are you voting on local issued or do you have your eye on donald trump? >> my eye's on donald trump because i want the country to do good and i think that donald trump is a unique president. i think that he's not a democrat or a republican. i believe he's an independent. and that's why i like him. >> reporter: but if you like him don't you want to send be? from his party up? >> i'm a renlsed democrat but whoever i feel best fits the mold. that's why i kind of like donald trump. >> what's interesting about this particular district is that it actually has a 70,000 voter margin for democrats. and a lot of union members. almost 80-plus thousand union members. so it's coal country. so a democrat could potentially upend a republican there if they have the right message. >> reporter: rick saccone is a staunch defender of trump's. we caught up with him as traveled between campaign events.
>> you said i was trump before trump. what do you mean by that? the issues president trump has nationalized, attenda he voted, in cutting taxes, cutting spending, reducing government regulation that's are strangling our businesses, most of those issues i ran on in the state house. in that sense i say i was trump before trump because i ran on those issues. >> reporter: seize a four term state representative with a wide ranging resume that includes air force counterintelligence unit, north korea peace negotiator and author of nine books. he says he disagrees bringing in the white house for reinforcement in this campaign is either a sign of vulnerability or liability. >> they could come here every week and he could fill a stadium. so i want him to come here because i want the people to see their president. >> rick saccone. >> thank you. thank you. >> reporter: at an event for young republicans saccone doubled down on his support for trump. >> and he needs help. he needs some wing men down here. i'm an air force guy. i want to go down there and be his wing man. we've got? air force here. good. >> reporter: do you think voters in the 18th district are going
to look aught and your opponent and judge you on the merits or is this all a referendum on trump? >> either way i think i win. so i hope they judge it on the merits of my background and experience and qualifications. but if it's a re6r7bdum ferendu trump, this is trump country. you just saw it out there. everywhere i go it's like that. people are for president trump here. he's as popular now as he's ever been. >> reporter: but trump is not popular everywhere in this district, and dislike of the plnt has motivated support for saccone's opponent, conor lamb. in a tony suburb of pittsburgh we attended a meeting where democratic foot soldiers for lamb plotted strategy and then hit the streets. do you think in part it's fed by the energy out of "me too" and "time's up"? >> i've never done this before in my life. i've always voted. i've never worked for a campaign before. i never protests. i never imagined i'd be protesting on the streets. but i consider it important work for the future of my grandchildren.
>> reporter: in many ways donald trump made you a political activist. >> yes. >> reporter: con lamb is a former assistant u.s. attorney and marine corps capital whon comes from a political family. this is his first run for public office. he's keeping a much lower profile than rick saccone, shunning the national media including our interview requests. he did make his case to our pittsburgh affiliate this weekend. >> my strategy is to go straight to the voters and introduce myself and talk to them about the issues that we face here in western pennsylvania. not about anyone's national agenda. and that seems to be working so far. >> he recognizes that the national democratic brand is toxic for him. so keeping it local is what's most advantageous for him. >> reporter: national republicans are pouring in big money to paint conor lamb as a nancy pelosi sock puppet. >> his name is conor lamb, but in washington he'd be one of nancy pelosi's sheep. >> reporter: this race is just heating up, and the partisan acrimony is only likely to accelerate. in the meantime, though, a lesson for america from those union workers we met outside their factory.
>> given how differing your views are on trump, can you get along at work? >> we're all good friends. >> it doesn't matter? >> you can't let political things separate you from being a human being. these guys, we've been together, what, 15 years now? 15 years for him. 20 for us. they become part of your family. and guess what. sometimes with your family -- do you always agree your brothers and your sisters? >> reporter: no. >> no. but you still love them. >> reporter: for until in the this is dan harris. >> thank you, gentlemen. >> reporter: in pennsylvania's 18th congressional district. >> and a reminder, you can find abc news's comprehensive "eighteen for '18" elections coverage at abcnews.com or by downloading the abc news app and signing up for midterm election aler alerts. up next, meet the high flyer who became 9 first woman to compete in the olympic ski jump after nearly a century of inequality. but first, a special treat for movie lovers. a look at the first full-length trailer for "solo," a "star wars" story.
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it's hard to believe that until 2014, just a few short years ago, there was still an olympic sport that women were not allowed to compete in. the sochi winter games marked the debut of the women's ski jump. and tonight we'll meet the team usa star who got to be part of that history-making moment. now preparing to take flight in pyeongchang. here's abc's matt gutman. >> reporter: here are the numbers. 20,000 jumps at three seconds each. and u.s. ski jumper sarah hendrickson has spent 16 hours of her life in flight. >> do you have time to take a breath or are you just holding everything so tight? >> i'm not sure about breathing or blinking. it's kind of hard to describe, but it's the best feeling in the world. >> reporter: at this year's
olympic trials hendrickson didn't just fly into first place -- >> she knows exactly what she just did. >> reporter: -- she arguably soared into sports history. >> it was amazing. i honestly didn't expect to win. >> reporter: hendrickson is just 23 years old, and four years ago she became the first woman to ski jump at an olympic games ever. >> i was fortunate enough to have been number one in sochi. so it was a very historical event. i'm honored to be a part of it. >> reporter: for nearly 100 years the sport was almost the emblem of the winter games. a ski jumper soaring down a mountain and another crashing in a windmill of limbs and skis. >> and the agony of defeat. >> reporter: immortalized by abc's "wide world of sports." a good jumper can clear the length of a football field. traveling at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour. what many don't realize, though, is for 90 years women were kept
from competing because officials said they were too frail. >> for a lack of filter, our uteruses would fall out. we weren't strong enough. it would inhibit our ability to have children. yeah. honestly a laughing matter. of course there are risks. look at downhill. look at free skiing. there are risks in that too. so why all of a sudden is it just ski jumping that's having these childbearing issues? >> reporter: women's olympic sports are have typically made slower progress than men's sports. it wasn't until 1996 that soccer opened up to women, when mia hamm and the u.s. team finally won gold. women's boxing wasn't allowed until 2012. in many ways you were the poster child of this sport for women. >> yeah. and for me that's been an honor. yeah, it is definitely pressure. but again, i just love ski jumping. it's what i do. >> reporter: born and raised in park city, utah, hendrickson was
on skis by the age of 2. jumping by 7. by 10 she was such a future prospect that she was interviewed by abc news cameras. >> i hope to get to the olympics one day if they ever do get in the olympics. >> you'd compete in the olympics? >> yes, absolutely. girls are exactly like boys because, i mean, they -- we've been jumping for just as long as they have. and that's the way it always should be. >> reporter: that was way back in 2006. >> my brother was in it. so i was sick of waiting for him in the car. it seemed like a perfect fit. and honestly loved it from the start. and i was always fearless as a kid. >> reporter: and she was equally fearless as an adult. by 2013 she claimed four world cup wins. including this one in oslo. but then a catastrophe. >> i basically destroyed my right knee, tearing my acl, mc
off the bone. 80% of my meniscus was damaged. and yeah, it was pretty brutal. >> did you know immediately that this is really bad? >> i tried to convince myself that i was okay. but yeah, it was pretty much as bad as it can get. >> reporter: after intense rehab she made the 2014 u.s. olympic team but her knee kept her from doing her best. >> i had a dream of winning gold. but with an injury like that it just kind of wasn't realistic anymore. really just had to enjoy the games for its experience and for the historical moment for women's ski jumping. >> reporter: first to break that barrier she was featured in this visa commercial. >> now women get a chance to fly. >> reporter: it wasn't always a sport that offered equality. in fact -- >> still doesn't. >> reporter: in the olympics the women get a chance to medal in only one ski jumping event. the men compete in three. >> hopefully one day we'll be equal. >> reporter: hendrickson reinjured that bad knee in 2015,
tearing her acl for a second time. she's now spent years building it back up. >> i have good days and bad days still. i can't even hardly walk around a city without having pain or walk around the grocery store, that type of thing. and once they bend into a knee five times, it's not normal again. >> reporter: her training regimen is brutal. from the slopes to the gym to a wind tunnel where hendrickson works to perfect her air control and body positioning. before she heads out to south korea, she gives me a lesson. >> we do this on a daily basis to practice our technique, right? this is the track. i think the scariest part that people think about ski jumping is once you're going down you can't stop, your skis are stuck in an ice track. >> so jump before you fall off the ramp. >> reporter: she makes it look easy. >> lower, lower, lower, lower.
jump! >> i jumped low and late. >> no, you were early. >> reporter: shows how much i know. >> i don't think my body can bend like that. >> arms down. arms down. >> ow. >> that was pretty good. >> is 40 years old too late to start? >> dream big. >> dream big. >> reporter: big dreams for her mean a second chance at a gold medal. this time in pyeongchang. what brought you back? >> my passion that i have for ski jumping and that feeling of flying again. i've loved it for so long, it didn't feel like i was ready to leave. >> reporter: for "nightline" i'm matt gutman in park city, utah. up next, it was meant to be inspiring and uniting. so why were social media users furious with this ram trucks ad? >> announcer: abc news "nightline," brought to you by oral-b. i was wondering if an electric toothbrush really cleans better
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outrage during the super bowl last night when it relied on an inspiring speech from dr. martin luther king jr. >> you don't have to know the theory of relativity. you don't have to know the general theory of thermodynamics in physics. you only need a heart full of grace. soul generated by love. >> that commercial evoking an angry backlash on social media from users who felt it was inappropriate for a company to use the civil rights leader for commercial purposes, especially given that the theme of the speech is in direct opposition to materialism. the mlk estate did approve use of the speech in the ad, but dr. king's daughter bernice tweeted that she did not. thanks for watching "nightline," and as