It will probably be a few more days before Pennsylvania's eighteenth district can definitively declare either Republican Rick Saccone or Democrat Conor Lamb to be the newest representative of a district that will cease to exist by next year.
Several media outlets, including NBC News, declared Lamb - who is ahead of his rival by several hundred votes - the winner. But more than 1,000 absentee ballots have yet to be counted, as CNN points out. Though Saccone is definitely at a disadvantage, and a come-from-behind victory is looking increasingly unlikely. Saccone and Lamb were running to replace former GOP Rep. Tim Murphy, who resigned after allegedly urging a woman he was having an affair with to have an abortion.
Lamb declared victory early this morning, telling a crowd of his supporters: "It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!"
Lamb, a Marine veteran and former prosecutor, told the crowd at his victory speech that the voters had directed him to "do your job" in Washington. "Mission accepted," he declared. Meanwhile, 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."
As several reporters pointed out last night, Pennsylvania doesn't require recounts for non-state-wide elections. However, either candidate’s supporters can ask for one - though at least three supporters must attest that there was an error or fraud when counting the ballots.
The margin between the two candidates was less than 700 votes:
Though some Republican strategists pointed out that Saccone had outperformed polls of likely voters, which had assigned Lamb between a two and a six point lead, others claimed the performance was still problematic for Republicans, and did not bode well for their chances of retaining the House later this year. If Lamb is victorious, he will need to run again - but for a seat in a different district - later this year.
As CNN reported, before it became clear the results would be so close, several Republican officials said they were expecting Saccone to lose.
Before the votes had even been counted, party leaders were already distancing themselves from Saccone and placing the blame squarely on Saccone's campaign but also on Trump's Saturday rally for the candidate, which some Republicans believe helped drive up Democratic turnout.
NBC is reporting that Saccone, who has not yet conceded, is working with lawyers to discuss next steps.
When the race tightened, one GOP source told Jim Acosta: "This isn't a blowout - for now, we'll happily take it."
Republicans also said President Trump, who was soliciting campaign contributions in Beverly Hills Tuesday night, was pleasantly surprised by the narrow margin.
Lamb, who benefited from his background disowned Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and staked out positions on abortion, guns and fracking that hewed closer to the GOP.
Still, as we pointed out yesterday, a Lamb victory wouldn't mean all that much for other Democrats running in deep-red districts. As one RNC spokeswoman pointed out, the only reason Lamb won over so many conservative voters is because he "essentially ran as a Republican."