Update: Like they say, every vote counts…
With 99% of precincts reporting, Tuesday night’s special election looks like it will come down to a margin of 150 votes or less. Democrat Conor Lamb has maintained a steady lead all night, though it has narrowed as totals from some of the more rural districts have trickled in.
According to the New York Times, Lamb has a 0.1% lead:
As one twitter pundit pointed out, such a close race is bad news for Republicans – especially considering President Trump carried the 18th district by 20 percentage points.
Not sure who wins in PA 18 but pretty sure it doesn’t matter. For a solid red district to be this close is very, very bad news for Republicans
— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) March 14, 2018
Meanwhile, RNC spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany defended Saccone by claiming Lamb managed to perform so well by “essentially running as a Republican” in the deep-red district.
“He’s pro-gun. He says he’s personally pro-life. He says he’s pro-coal, he’s tariff. He says he’s anti-Nancy Pelosi,” McEnany said on ABC News ahead of the election results Tuesday.
As one reporter reminds us, there’s no automatic recount provision for non-statewide Pennsylvania elections – candidates must request a recount, an outcome that is looking increasingly likely.
No auto recount in non-statewide PA elections, candidates have to request one and need reason for it
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) March 14, 2018
A New York Times chart shows how voting patterns in Washington, Green and Allegheny counties have “evolved” since election night 2016.
Some pundits pushed back against the notion that Tuesday’s race is a harbinger of doom for Republicans.
On PA SPECIAL, top House GOP source tells me that “we were predicted to lose by 4-6 points as of this a.m. So while this definitely isn’t ideal, tonight has already exceeded expectation with this candidate.”
— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) March 14, 2018
And another reporter points out that there are about 1,200 absentee ballots that won’t be counted until tomorrow…so whatever the final outcome is, it won’t be available tonight…
— Michael Smerconish (@smerconish) March 14, 2018
* * *
The polls have officially closed in Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district – a patch of coal and steel country in southwestern Pennsylvania that includes swaths of suburban Pittsburgh surrounded by many far more rural areas.
Once a reliably Democratic district, President Trump carried the 18th by 20 percentage points – blowing out Hillary Clinton and even far surpassing the 12-point lead captured by Mitt Romney back in 2012.
But most polls of likely voters show 33-year-old Democrat Conor Lamb, a Marine veteran who has pledged not to support Nancy Pelosi, and also to oppose gun control, against Republican state House member Rick Saccone, a staunch Christian conservative.
Trump has twice visited the district – most recently on Saturday night, when he unveiled his 2020 campaign slogan “Keep America Great” to uproarious cheers. And senior Trump surrogates, including Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. have also made appearances.
The race the race was triggered when former GOP Congressman Tim Murphy resigned after reportedly urging his mistress to have an abortion.
Saccone, widely considered a weak candidate with a lackluster local fundraising operation, has benefited from a flood of outside money. Lamb, who is running in a district where Democrats didn’t even field a candidate to oppose Murphy, has been successful raising money locally, and hasn’t received as much help from the Democratic establishment. Indeed, Lamb comes from a prominent local political family: His grandfather was a prominent Democratic politician in the Pennsylvania, and his uncle holds a senior city job in Pittsburgh.
Regardless of who wins tonight, their tenure in Congress may be short-lived. The 18th district is set to disappear thanks to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision forcing the state to redraw its districts. Whoever wins will need to make a difficult choice about which district they will run in.
So far, with 21% of precincts reporting, Lamb leads with a 15 percentage-point lead over Saccone. In terms of votes, Lamb is up 23,558 to 17,437.
Conor Lamb (D) leads by 15 percentage points over Rick Saccone (R) with 21 percent of precincts fully reporting. pic.twitter.com/xwzkLBvlWg
— Monty (@MontyKYX) March 14, 2018
* * *
Even if the Democrats triumph tonight, for some, it will feel like a Pyrrhic victory.
The Bernie Sanders-loving progressive wing of the Democratic Party will be horrified to learn that, if Lamb wins, more Democrats in Trump-positive districts will seek to mimic Lamb’s approach – i.e. run as conservative Democrats who oppose the party leadership, gun control and abortion.
With that in mind, we’re certain the good people over at Emily’s List will be thrilled to welcome Lamb into the House.
And to be sure – if Lamb does win – we imagine President Trump will be ready with a tweet disavowing Saccone and deflecting the blame for his defeat.