Polls have officially closed in Pennsylvania’s hotly contested House election, a race that’s drawn more than $10 million in Republican spending and two visits from President Trump in the hopes of staving off an embarrassing defeat.
Democrat Conor Lamb, a former Marine and prosecutor, has run a strong race against Republican Rick Saccone. Expect a close result, as recent public and private polling have found a tight contest, but strategists in both parties both privately expect Lamb to win.
That would be a stunning result. Trump carried the blue-collar district, which stretches from suburban Pittsburgh to the West Virginia border, by a 20-point margin in 2016, and President Obama lost it twice by double digits.
A Lamb victory would give Democrats their first House special election pickup of the Trump era, and be the latest warning sign of a building Democratic wave for the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats have picked up more than three dozen statehouse seats across the country, pulled off a shocking upset against the deeply flawed Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race, and ran up the margins in gubernatorial wins in New Jersey and Virginia late last year.
Trump’s approval rating is at about even in the district – a warning sign in and of itself given his big win there less than two years ago. While the district does contain some of the type of suburban territory that’s trended hard against the president, it also has broad swaths of deep-red, more populist rural area, a sign that Democrats are bouncing back in all types of districts. And while Saccone ran a lackluster campaign, it shouldn’t matter in such deep red territory.
A close Saccone win would be a temporary relief for Republicans and provide them with their latest House special election win, but still a warning sign of what may be to come since this race shouldn’t have been competitive in the first place. But if Lamb wins, as is widely expected, Republicans’ alarm over the upcoming midterms will only escalate.
Stay tuned for the results.