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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Lamb Claims Victory With Small Lead, Dems Win Either Way

The official tally from the Pennsylvania Department of State indicates that, with 100 percent of precincts reporting in the PA-13 special election, Democrat Conor Lamb has 113,111 votes, while his Republican opponent, Richard Saccone has 112.532 and Libertarian Drew Gray Miller has 1,372. In percentage terms, Lamb has 49.83 percent of the vote, compared to Saccone’s 49.57 and Miller’s 0.6 percent.

Lamb claimed victory, telling his supporters that “we did it.” But Saccone has not yet conceded.

The official count for provisional and absentee ballots could take a couple more days. But Lamb appeared to be holding his own in terms of absentee ballots. Chris Potter reports at The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, that “as of 5:30 a.m. Wednesday: The unofficial total for absentee ballots in Washington County, shows Democrat Conor Lamb with 609 votes and Republican Rick Saccone, 547.” Washington County is one of four  counties in this district, and has a similar demographic profile as the district as a whole. Both the county and the district have 95 percent white residents.

A recount is possible, but not automatic. A recount can be requested, but it requires three voters in each requesting precinct to attest that error or fraud was committed. Recounts usually don’t change the result. In his post, “Recounts Rarely Reverse Election Results” at FiveThirtyEight, Carl Bialik notes,

Recounts typically don’t swing enough votes to change the winner. Out of 4,687 statewide general elections between 2000 and 2015, just 27 were followed by recounts, according to data compiled by FairVote, a nonpartisan group that researches elections and promotes electoral reform. Just three of those 27 recounts resulted in a change in the outcome, all leading to wins for Democrats: Al Franken’s win in Minnesota’s 2008 U.S. Senate race, Thomas M. Salmon’s win in Vermont’s 2006 auditor election and Christine Gregoire’s win in Washington’s 2004 gubernatorial race.

Lamb did not campaign directly against Trump, who came to the district to campaign for Saccone. Instead, Lamb focused on issues of specific concern to voters in the district, though sending Trump a message was likely a motivating factor for many Lamb voters. As Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear wrote in The New York Times,

Whether Mr. Lamb holds on to win the House seat matters less than the fact that he was so competitive in the first place. The rebuke of Mr. Trump came from deep inside Trump Nation, a part of western Pennsylvania that overwhelmingly supported him in 2016 and that typically would not seem likely to turn to a Democrat. The district is seen as so strongly Republican that the Democrats did not even field a candidate in recent years…..The tally was also a blunt rejection of the president’s political calculation that tax cuts and steel tariffs would persuade voters in a region once dominated by the steel industry to embrace the Trump agenda on behalf of Mr. Saccone. “Steel is back,” he repeatedly said at the rally, apparently to little effect.

Regardless of the outcome of any possible recount, credit Conor Lamb with a great campaign, with no significant blunders. His victory is instructive for all Democrats running in districts with a large percentage of white working-class voters.

UPDATE: MSNBC declares Conor Lamb the “apparent winner,” after further analysis of absentee and provisional ballots.

One comment on “Lamb Claims Victory With Small Lead, Dems Win Either Way

  1. Dan on

    There are still too many Republican Racist trying to degrade the United States of America. We must be eternally vigilant!


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