In a stunning upset, Democrat Conor Lamb won an incredibly close special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, beating out Republican candidate Rick Saccone in a deeply conservative district the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rated R+11.
The race stretched into Wednesday midday, when CNN reported Lamb was in the lead with 627 votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. State law does not mandate a recount in district-level elections.
Conventional wisdom suggested that Saccone — a candidate who once declared himself “Trump before Trump was Trump” — would do well in a district that turned out in droves for President Donald Trump in 2016. But in recent weeks, Republicans were in full panic mode, dumping more than $9 million into the race. Lamb’s victory shows they were right to be so worried.
And it wasn’t just Republicans who feared losing this district — it was Trump himself.
In many ways, PA-18 was emblematic of Trump’s presidential success story; the president carried the district by 20 points in 2016, along with much of the rest of western Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was one of the blue-collar Rust Belt states he was never supposed to win but won anyway, in a stunning rebuke to Hillary Clinton.
Along with Wisconsin and Michigan, the Keystone State carried Trump to victory on Election Day 2016. It’s a story he often recounts at rallies, including the one he held for Saccone in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.
Voting for Saccone is exactly what the president wanted his supporters to do. Trump cared enough about Saccone winning that he joined him on the campaign trail multiple times and sent Vice President Mike Pence and members of his family, including son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka Trump, to stump.
He even pushed a controversial announcement on steel and aluminum import tariffs so it would land a week before the special election.
None of it worked.
Trump voters ended up either staying home or proving they could just as easily cast their votes for a Democrat with the right message, especially when Trump wasn’t the candidate on the ballot.
Conor Lamb won a district Democrats weren’t supposed to be competitive in
On its face, Tuesday’s special congressional election in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania was supposed to be a breeze for the GOP. The Cook Political Report rated the district R+11, due in part to partisan gerrymandering that the state Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional.
Political analysts in the state agreed that the district’s gerrymandering was part of the reason it was supposed to be impossible for Democrats to win. This is a seat that used to be so solidly Republican that Democrats didn’t even bother competing in it.
For the record, there are 119 GOP held districts that are LESS RED THAN THIS DISTRICT.
Keep this up, keep voting, and canvassing in every district and every race, hold them accountable for their traitorous and inhumane actions.
For the first time, we have a Democratic challenger in every single district, even the deepest red ones.