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.
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