By Jim EllisMarch 15, 2018 — Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have captured the 18th District special election held Tuesday in southwestern Pennsylvania, besting Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg); but it will likely be a couple days before the result is finalized. The margin stands at 641 votes in Lamb’s favor of 228,177 ballots cast with all precincts reporting and absentee votes counted, meaning a recount could be ordered.
Democrats will claim that this special election result sets the groundwork for the “blue wave” they have been predicting because their candidate converted a district that President Trump carried by 20 points and where resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) didn’t even draw an opponent during the past two elections.
Republicans will now counter saying that Lamb didn’t run like a liberal Democrat but was able to bring the large conservative western PA Democratic voter contingent — those who came out in droves to support President Trump, for example — back into his party’s column. During the campaign, Lamb publicly indicated that he would not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a way to convince the behaviorally conservative regional voter that he is not a national Democrat. Additionally, Lamb’s deep family ties to the Democratic base helped him as well. His grandfather is a former state House majority leader, and his uncle is the Pittsburgh City controller.
President Trump will undoubtedly take some credit for the close outcome. Prior to his visit to the district, pollsters were showing a much larger lead for Lamb than the preliminary final outcome produced. The final Monmouth University poll, for example, predicted a six to seven-point Lamb lead if the Democrats “surged” in turnout as they have done in other special elections around the country.