Mar 13, 2018, 11:59 PM ET

Bellwether Pennsylvania special election too close to call

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A closely watched and extremely expensive special congressional election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District remained too close to call late Tuesday.

Such a tight margin will likely be seen as a major victory for the Democrat Conor Lamb, as President Donald Trump won the area in southwest Pennsylvania by nearly 20 points during the 2016 election cycle and in the last two cycles the Republican incumbent ran unopposed.

At 11:30 P.M. eastern time, with nearly all precincts reporting and most of the votes in, Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone were separated by less than 1,000 votes, with the Democrat holding on to a narrow lead.

Despite the fact that the Associated Press did not call the race on Tuesday night, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared victory.

"These results should terrify Republicans," DCCC Chairman Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico said in a statement.

Saccone vowed to fight on.

"We're going to fight all the way to the end. You know I never give up," Saccone said at his election headquarters on Tuesday night.

His Democratic opponent, however, declared victory.

"It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it," Lamb said at the top of his remarks early Wednesday morning.

Just a minute earlier, he was announced to the stage as "Congressman-elect Conor Lamb."

The final result may come down absentee ballots that have been returned but not tabulated yet.

PHOTO: Supporters cheer as they watch election returns at an election night event for Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvanias 18th district, March 13, 2018 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Supporters cheer as they watch election returns at an election night event for Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, March 13, 2018 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

There are two remaining counties in the district with absentee votes left to be tallied.

Washington County also expects to count their ballots late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.

Greene County will not count their absentee ballots until tomorrow.

With the final result still unclear, the possibility of a recount looms.

While state law stipulates that an automatic recount is triggered when the margin in a statewide race is less than half a percentage point, the rules for a special election in a congressional district remain unclear.

PHOTO: Campaign volunteer Chloe Chappell checks early election results at an Election Night event for GOP PA Congressional Candidate Rick Saccone as the polls close on March 13, 2018 in Elizabeth Township, Pennsylvania.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Campaign volunteer Chloe Chappell checks early election results at an Election Night event for GOP PA Congressional Candidate Rick Saccone as the polls close on March 13, 2018 in Elizabeth Township, Pennsylvania.

The results give the Democratic Party a boost in confidence and shores up their belief that their candidates can run and compete in any House district in the country — even the reddest ones. President Donald Trump took the district by 20 points in 2016.

"Democrats have now expanded the playing field, and they're going to compete in districts Republicans won by 12, 14, 16 points," ABC News contributor and political analyst Matt Dowd said Tuesday night.

They’ll also argue their base is much more motivated than the GOP voters who gave Trump the White House.

The numbers appear to back that up.

Turnout in the most Democratic county, Allegheny, was 6 percentage points higher than the other three more Republican counties that make up the 18th Congressional District.

But, a bigger part of the math that made this race so tight was that Lamb also seems to have swung votes and outperformed Hillary Clinton across the board, doing 10 percentage points better than the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

Lamb, a 33-year old Marine Corps veteran and former assistant U.S. attorney has been locked in a tight battle with Saccone, a 60-year old, four-term state representative to represent the southwestern Pennsylvania district.

PHOTO: Supporters monitor election returns at an event for Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvanias 18th district, March 13, 2018 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Supporters monitor election returns at an event for Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, March 13, 2018 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday’s special election was triggered by the resignation of Republican Rep. Tim Murphy last year following a report that he allegedly asked an extramarital lover to end her pregnancy.

The republican candidate for Pennsylvanias 18th Congressional District spoke to supporters Tuesday night.Play
GOP candidate Rick Saccone: 'We're still fighting the fight'

The closely-watched contest has seen close to $10 million spent by conservative groups to boost Saccone and stave off concerns that the GOP is falling out of favor with the same blue-collar voters that propelled Donald Trump to the White House.

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  • dmom05

    This is taking a suspiciously long time to end. Makes me wonder what the republicans are doing to sabotage the results.

  • pfon71361

    While the final vote result after a presumed recount might yet be in favor of Rick Saccone, the handwriting may be on the wall for the Republican-led House of Representatives. A victory in this heavily conservative 18th congressional district in Pennsylvania should have been a "gimme" for the Republican Saccone what with a personal Trump endorsement and $10 million dollar war chest. Now with this virtual tie vote for Conor Lamb and the Democrats, while much hard work is still ahead, they can now see a promising path forward. Meanwhile, this Lamb deserves praise for beating the odds and not getting "roasted".

  • Top shelf

    Hopefully Saccone will be infected with the Trump stench until the end of his days. When he accuses the anti-Trump crowds of hating America and hating God, he deserves to to get his empty head handed to him.

  • GorillaMyDreams

    The election was rigged!

    By Trump, being so obviously incompetent and not working for the good of the people.

  • Ashley

    Which pro-tax cut, pro-gun, pro-life, anti-Pelosi candidate will come out the winner? LOL

  • Bryan Thompson

    Wouldn't it be smarter for democrats to just smile to themselves, and keep their mouths shut? THAT'S the reason I am a moderate and refuse to blindly support either party or ideology. When push comes to shove, people that live on the ends as opposed to the middle are also dumber than a box of rocks!

  • Brandon Jones

    I think this proves that the election of Donald Trump was less about endorsing the Republican agenda and more about change for the sake of change.

  • Krimson

    "Yeah, I'll take a fail-burger with a side of voter rejection." - GOP

    "That will be $10 million. Please drive through." - Pennsylvania

  • Pologize3

    Well this can't be good for Donald's ego.

  • dancer92136

    This made my day.

  • Independent Cacodemon

    I won't believe it until Lamb is actually sworn in. Dems have a well earned rep of pulling defeat out of the jaws of victory, and Republicans will pull any shenanigans they possibly can to hold on to power.

  • Speedriff

    Well they better have observers on both sides if they are doing a recount. We know the GOP will do anything and everything to take this win away.

  • threehundredthousand ✓ᵛᵉʳᶥᶠᶥᵉᵈ

    Trump is a poison pill. Who could have guessed that?

  • mik8888

    This may not be a beating for Republicans, but it certainly is a spanking for the arrogance displayed this past year...even if Lamb doesn't win the recount, it will still come across as a signal to other Republican hopefulls...

    Simply put, having Donald Trump support you is now the dreaded kiss of death...

  • Fermer Votre Bouche

    Pennsylvania special election too close to call
    Translation: Trump just cost the GOP another congressional election

  • CantStoptheSignalM

    People are tired of seeing corruption/conflicts of interest from the Executive branch being ignored by Congressional Republicans.

    I love how these GOP candidates are "doubling-down" on Trump's support... it's toxic but they keep thinking support from Trump will actually help them.

  • jnpa

    As of 6:05 this morning CBS is reporting "Unofficial results of the counting of absentee ballots in Washington County, which is considered crucial, have Conor Lamb with 609 votes and Rick Saccone with 547, CBS Pittsburgh reports, enabling Lamb to add slightly to his slim lead."

  • sg

    as of tis morning Lamb is up about 600

  • Guest

    Off-topic, but interesting nonetheless..

    Seth Rich's family has instigated a lawsuit against Fox for their stupid nonstop conspiracy theory pushing......that should be interesting.

  • FlorMedDoc

    The Blue Tsunami is unstoppable with 40 Republican seats now flipped.

    The democrats take control come January....The investigations into the Trump crime family begin in late Januray

  • TexasVulcan

    Another piece of good news. Let's hope we get the same kind of turnout this fall.

  • Eye Candy

    This is fantastic. What a slap in the face to Trump.

  • B-K KnightRider

    Well, not anymore. Lamb's current lead is now greater than the number of outstanding votes.

  • DJT-LiarInChief

    Any win against a GOP candidate is a win over Trump and Russia.

  • BD70

    This election has served its purpose. Saccone didn't win by a landslide. In fact he is losing by a slim margin in a district that should have been his. Wake up call to Trump. Going forward after this he may be considered poison for future campaigns.

  • ruelph

    Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the Republicans in 2018.

  • Karen Klinck

    Everyone forgets: Connor Lamb has one thing Hilary Clinton never could. He's male, therefore somehow 'okay' for people who somehow think a woman is a second-class citizen. At least he's the better candidate in that election!

  • Former Earthling

    Any loss for Trump and GOP is a win for America. Blue Tsunami surely coming this November!

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    It appears almost certain the Dems will get a much needed victory and Trump will get the latest of what will be an entire string of losses. No one has inspired voters as much as he has in decades. Too bad for him, it will motivate them to vote for the candidates for the other party.

  • Impetus

    Saccone sounds like a slug, but it's really, really tacky to claim victory when there are more votes outstanding than your margin between the other guy.

  • SMRT

    ¡Ola azul!

  • paul miller

    If Lamb wins and that trend with Dems continues Trump will finally come out and say Russia interfered with the election process, Fake Election.

  • Marine Dad05

    There's no question, I'm rooting for the Marine!!

  • Factcheck

    **I Factcheck, call this election in favor of Lamb by 80 votes, scratch that by 25.** Beat ya to it, CNN, ABC and especially you FOX. (PS, Why did I think of the that picture of Truman holding a newspaper, when I wrote this.)

    Here is why: About 3200 absentee ballots not yet counted and a 579 vote lead by Lamb. That means Lamb has to get better than 1311 of the 3200 absentee ballots or about 41%. The absentee ballots are from two counties where Lamb lost and got 46% and 42% of the in person vote. So if the absentee ballots mirror in person votes, Lambs lead will go down by 300 votes to about 180. I think the republican absentee votes will be just slightly higher so I think he will drop another 100. Edit: 3800 absentee ballots not 32, lower my estimate of margin of victory to 25 votes in favor of Lamb.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Thanks to you too Donnie. You have accomplished one good thing in office. You've motivated millions to vote in the next electjon. They got lazy and let you steal an election. They will make sure it doesnt happen again.

  • Your Worst Nightmare

    Thank you voters of PA. The victory will be confirmed tomorrow but your turnout means it is a victory already. At a minimum, Dems need to take the House and limit the powers of the incompetent in the WH for his last two years. If every state turns out as you did, perhaps we can take the Senate as well. Impeachment is then a possibility.