Did Democrats manage to steal a march on Republicans last night in Trump Country? Conor Lamb certainly thinks so; he declared victory late last night. Republican Rick Saccone begs to differ, however:
The Democrat and Republican in a special House election in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Trump country were divided by a few hundred votes in a race that was too close to call early Wednesday — an ominous sign for Republicans in a district that Donald J. Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points.
With 100 percent of votes counted, Conor Lamb, a Democrat, was clinging to a 641-vote lead over Rick Saccone, a Republican. But one county in the four-county district had not yet counted its absentee ballots, so no winner had been declared as of Wednesday morning. And it was possible that, if Mr. Saccone challenged the results, a legal battle could ensue.
Taking the stage to applause at 12:45 a.m., Mr. Lamb was introduced as “Congressman-elect” and exulted, “It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!”
At the moment, Lamb’s lead is within 0.2%. In many states, that would be small enough to trigger an automatic recount — but not in Pennsylvania:
House Democrats also did not wait for a final count to claim victory, and House Republicans were already talking about a legal challenge. Under Pennsylvania law, there is no automatic recount in such a race, no matter how close.
Saccone and/or the GOP would have to pay the freight for a recount. Assuming the gap stays relatively the same after the absentees and provisional ballots are fully counted, it’s on the outer edge of the range where recounts could change the results. The vote-counting mechanisms in American elections are normally very reliable, which means that anything outside of the low three figures is not likely to change significantly enough to reverse an election outcome.
Lamb’s already doing the celebratory tours on national TV this morning. He tells Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s New Day that he thinks voters in the Pittsburgh suburbs simply got tired of nonsense surrounding the election. He did acknowledge that this might be premature, however:
Conor Lamb says he is not surprised his GOP opponent Rick Saccone has not conceded: "We expected to have a good fight on our hands … so I wouldn't really expect anything else and I congratulate him on fighting hard the whole way" https://t.co/qPDTozjd5F pic.twitter.com/kbeY7wUTqz
— New Day (@NewDay) March 14, 2018
Go figure that Saccone wouldn’t pick up the phone to talk with Lamb. Why would he? There are several thousand ballots still outstanding this morning. It would take a huge Saccone boost among absentees and provisionals to overtake Lamb, on the order of a +10 or more, which seems very unlikely. But there’s no point conceding until those ballots get counted first.