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Pennsylvania Election is Disappointing for GOP

Despite the fact that the special election in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district is still too close to call, Democratic candidate Conor Lamb, a former prosecutor, leads the Republican, state Rep. Rick Saccone by 0.3%.

Conor Lamb, the probable winner in the PA election

Stated otherwise, Lamb currently has a lead of 627 votes over Saccone. This is a huge swing in a district that has a partisan lean of Republican+21 and went for President Donald Trump by almost 20 points in the 2016 election.

There are still votes to be counted, but Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight outlined how improbable it would be for Saccone to pull through. He wrote,

The exact margin will likely change, but it’s going to be very difficult for Saccone to make up [the] deficit. The only votes left to be counted are around 200 absentee ballots in Greene County (expected to be announced on Wednesday) as well as a handful of provisional and overseas ballots, which may take days to finalize. There may not even be 641 ballots left to count. 
Nor is a recount likely to change the final result. Although it would be pretty easy for Republicans to request a recount should they want one, recounts typically don’t shift election margins by that much. That’s especially true in Pennsylvania, where most voting is done on electronic touchscreens; a recount would only reveal errors in the small population of paper ballots.

While there is a remote possibility that Saccone will be able to secure the congressional seat, it is probably not going to happen.

Even if it does, the election is a dark indicator for the Republican Party ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. It shows that no district is safe from the wave of Democratic enthusiasm (which has yielded votes and donations), including the reddest ones in the country.

The only factor that offers a silver lining for the Republicans is that Saccone was a poor candidate who fundraised lightly, relying mostly on money provided by other Republicans. While his resume was impressive, Saccone was panned for being a lackluster campaigner while his opponent, Lamb, was telegenic.

Harlan Hill, a Republican strategist, referred to Saccone as a "milquetoast" candidate, saying, "One lesson from #PA18, if you nominate boring milquetoast Republicans, voters won’t come out."

Despite Saccone's drawbacks, the Pennsylvania results are a disappointment that should serve as a warning signal for the Republicans ahead of what is expected to be a particularly bruising midterm season.