PITTSBURGH - A razor’s edge separated Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone early Wednesday in their closely watched special election in Pennsylvania, where a surprisingly strong bid by first-time candidate Lamb severely tested Donald Trump’s sway in a GOP stronghold.
Lamb claimed victory before exuberant supporters after midnight, though many absentee ballots were still to be counted in the contest that has drawn national attention as a bellwether for the midterm elections in November when the Republican Party’s House and Senate majorities are at risk.
The Marine veteran told his crowd that voters had directed him to “do your job” in Washington. “Mission accepted,” he declared. Earlier, Saccone told his own supporters, “It’s not over yet, we’re going to fight all the way, all the way to the end, we’ll never give up.”
Lamb told CNN Wednesday he hadn’t yet heard from Saccone, but added, “I congratulate him on fighting hard the whole way.”
Regardless of the outcome — and a recount was possible — Lamb’s showing in a district Trump won by 20 points in the presidential race was sure to stoke anxiety among Republicans nationwide and renewed enthusiasm among Democrats.
FOLLOW LIVE PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION RESULTS BELOW:
Here's a closer look at what to watch tonight (and after):
THE "W" WORD: Democrats are eager to call 2018 a wave year in which they'll take back the majority in the House, and possibly the Senate. It's too early to make that call now, but if Lamb wins, it will bolster Democrats in districts that seem out of reach both due to their political makeup and fundraising. They can gain some major "Mo"(mentum) here tonight that could help bring in a big "W" in November.
THE DISTRICT WILL LIKELY DISAPPEAR: If you thought $12 million being spent by outside groups on one special election race that won't immediately change the power dynamics on Capitol Hill was crazy, consider this: The district will likely disappear in November. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the current congressional map unconstitutional and created a new one after the governor and Legislature failed to agree on how to change it. The area has been split up into different districts beginning next year, which illustrates just how seriously both sides are taking this race.
WHICH SURROGATE MADE THE BIGGEST IMPACT: Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former Vice President Joe Biden all campaigned here for the candidates. They will certainly hit the trail for more candidates between now and November, but how and where they campaign next could change after the votes are counted in Pennsylvania's 18th.
THE BLAME GAME: If Republicans lose tonight, they will call Saccone a poor candidate who couldn't fundraise and didn't define himself early enough. If Democrats lose, they'll point to the district's history and call a close race a win for them anyway (though Democrats have flipped 39 state legislative seats since Trump took office, they haven't been able to do it for a congressional seat).
Democrat outraises Republican in final stretch of Pa. special election
Democrat Conor Lamb holds a significant financial advantage over Republican Rick Saccone heading into the final stretch of the special election in Pennsylvania's 18th District.
According to FEC filings posted Thursday, Lamb dramatically outraised Saccone from January 1 through February 21, the final complete filing period before the special election, which is set for March 13. Lamb took in around $3.3 million during this period, compared to about $700,000 for Saccone.
During the same period, Lamb's campaign spent $2.9 million while Saccone's campaign spent a little over $600,000. And with 11 days to go in the race, Lamb's campaign has over $800,000 in cash on hand, to Saccone's $300,000.
Pence says everything at stake in Pa. election
Vice President Mike Pence says Tuesday’s special election in a western Pennsylvania House district is “about a whole lot more than the two candidates” on the ballot.
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Pence says “the only thing at stake is everything” in the race between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb.
Pence is looking to drive Republican turnout to boost Saccone, who has struggled in a district President Donald Trump won by about 20 percentage points.
The vice president argues that Trump’s entire agenda is on the line in a race that is being viewed as a bellwether of a challenging midterm election cycle for Republicans.
Saccone says he’d be Trump’s Washington wingman
Rick Saccone is President Donald Trump’s man to the end.
The Pennsylvania congressional candidate wants voters who haven’t cast ballots yet in Tuesday’s special election to know he’d go to Washington to have the president’s back.
Saccone told Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network in an Election Day interview that Trump is “getting beat up in Washington” by the media, bureaucrats and Hollywood. Saccone says Trump “needs a good wingman.”
Saccone is in a surprisingly competitive race against Democrat Conor Lamb in a Pittsburgh-area district that Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016. The seat opened last October when Republican Tim Murphy resigned amid a sex scandal.
Lamb acknowledges the intense opposition to Trump among liberal voters but says the election shouldn’t be Trump.
Voters deciding whether to keep US House seat in GOP hands
Democrat Conor Lamb, fighting for an upset victory in a congressional district that Donald Trump easily won in 2016, insisted Tuesday as voters headed to the polls that the race wasn’t about the larger-than-life personality in the White House.
“This didn’t have much to do with President Trump,” Lamb said after voting outside Pittsburgh, where he’s locked in an unexpectedly tight race with Republican Rick Saccone in a special election that serves as a barometer ahead of November’s midterm elections.
But the president himself has embedded his footprints in the race, campaigning twice in person and tweeting even more for Saccone as part of a full-court press by national GOP forces to avoid what would be an embarrassing defeat.
The bid by Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor, in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District has become symbolic of the larger national fight as both parties careen toward November for the first midterms of the Trump era.
Democrats must flip 24 GOP-held seats to reclaim a House majority, and no one was counting on this Pittsburgh-area district that Trump won by 20 percentage points in the presidential race to be in play. Longtime Republican congressman Tim Murphy was re-elected to the seat in 2016 without Democratic opposition for his eighth term.
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