One of the candidates in the special election to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th District has declared victory, but the reality is that this fight isn’t over yet.
With a margin of victory of just 579 votes, or less than 2/10 of 1%, Democrat Conor Lamb has declared victory, but will likely have to wait at least a few days before the state actually decides who the winner was.
With 99% of the precincts in the 18th district reporting, Lamb held on to a 579-vote lead over Republican Rick Saccone. Lamb had 113,111 votes and Saccone trailed at 112,532.
Around 1:00 AM this morning, Lamb stood before a crowd of supporters and declared victory, saying, “It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!” However, Lamb is the only one saying this for now. Most of the major news agencies have decided to instead report that the “race is too close to call,” and will await further information, including the counting of absentee ballots.
There are a substantial number of outstanding absentee ballots — over 1,000 — that could still swing the race. Three of the four counties that make up the district were tallying their absentee votes Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning, while the other county was not expected to do so right away. But those votes must be counted within seven days.
While the mainstream media has decided that the 18th District is some kind of bellwether for the national mood, the truth is quite different. President Trump did win the 18th by 20-points, and the district does lean heavily to the right, but this election likely came down to local issues (as these things so often do).
The reason the special election was being held was because the previous Representative, Tim Murphy (R-PA), was forced to resign after being caught in an affair and having pushed his mistress to have an abortion. (Murphy was supposed to be staunchly pro-life.) On top of that, Saccone may have been the worst possible, least exciting candidate for the local GOP to run. Even the President, who gave vocal support to Saccone and even travelled to Pennsylvania to campaign with him on Monday, was apparently critical of the man behind closed doors.
There’s a reason Trump said hardly anything about Republican candidate Rick Saccone during a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night that was supposed to promote his candidacy.
- The reason: Trump thinks Saccone is a terrible, “weak” candidate, according to four sources who’ve spoken to the president about him.
- Trump held that opinion of Saccone before leaving for the rally, and I’ve not been able to establish whether his time on the ground with the candidate changed his mind.
- Trump isn’t the only top Republican who’s found Saccone underwhelming. The widely-held view from Republican officials: Democrat Conor Lamb is a far superior candidate to Saccone and running a far better campaign. Lamb is running effectively as Republican Lite. He’s pro-gun and says he personally opposes to abortion (though he supports abortion rights).
- The thing that most irks senior Republicans involved in the race: Saccone has been a lousy fundraiser. Lamb has outraised Saccone by a staggering margin — nearly 500 percent.
Add to these factors that Conor Lamb may have been the perfect Democrat to run in the 18th, and you can begin to see why this election was so close.
What do I mean by “perfect” Democrat? Lamb campaigned more as a moderate Republican than he did as a Democrat.
Donald Trump says he doesn’t want to meet Conor Lamb, because the Democrat is saying all kinds of good things about what Trump is doing.
“I might like him,” the president told a crowd in Moon, Pennsylvania, at a Saturday night rally for Rick Saccone, Lamb’s Republican opponent in Tuesday’s special House election. “And then Rick is going to be very angry with me.”
In this union-heavy, blue-collar district just outside of Pittsburgh where Trump won by 19 points, Lamb is running as a Republican’s Democrat. And some in his party hope his campaign will prove a blueprint for how Democrats can win back the working-class voters who deserted them in 2016.
Lamb opposes any kind of assault weapon ban, a stance he reiterated in the aftermath of last month’s Parkland school shooting. In one of his campaign ads, he aims an AR-15. He says he is personally anti–abortion rights, though he would oppose 20-week abortion ban legislation. He supports Trump’s tariffs. He will not back Nancy Pelosi for House Democratic leader.
The reality here is that President Trump is still very popular in the 18th District, and the voters in the district who elected him in 2016 still support him. This district is not a bellwether for the midterms, but it may very well be an example for the Democrat Party to follow.
If more Democrats across “Middle America” decide to abandon the far-left tilt of their party and return to the center to run as “Blue Dog” or moderate Democrats… they would very likely have far more success in 2018 than they would if they stuck to their socialist platforms.
But is that the kind of candidate the modern Democrat Party wants? Probably not.
By the way, this election matters even less if the recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court holds up. The Supreme Court recently killed the current 18th District in their bid to “end gerrymandering” in the Keystone State. So, while Lamb may end up being the next Congressman from Pennsylvania… he probably wont’ serve for very long.
Either way, we should know sometime later this week who the next Congressman from the 18th District will be, even if it’s only for a short time.