Polls closed at 8 PM ET in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, where Republican Rick Saccone faces Democrat Conor Lamb in a special election for the final months of former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy’s term. This Western Pennsylvania seat backed Trump 58-39 and Romney 58-41, but Republicans are worried that Trump’s unpopularity, as well as a weak campaign by Saccone and a strong effort from Lamb, will allow Democrats to flip this district. While a new map ordered by the state Supreme Court will dramatically change this seat’s boundaries ahead of the November general election, Republican outside groups have still spent millions to avoid what would be an embarrassing loss.
To help follow along as the results come in, David Jarman has set “benchmarks” for all four counties in the district—target numbers that Lamb would have to meet in order to narrowly win. We’re liveblogging the results below, and you can also follow our coverage on Twitter.
First, a quick update on the numbers, then some analysis. Lamb is currently up 847 votes, or 49.9 to 49.5 percent, with two precincts in Saccone-friendly Westmoreland County uncounted, as well as absentees in Westmoreland, Washington, and Green Counties uncounted. Westmoreland plans to count its absentees tonight, and Washington apparently will, too, after previously saying it would not.
The New York Times’ Nate Cohn expects Saccone to net roughly 200 votes from the last two Westmoreland precincts. That would give Lamb a lead of about 650 votes. According to CNN, there are about 3,200 absentee ballots in the three outstanding counties (Westmoreland, Greene, and Washington).
To pull ahead, Saccone (based on that hypothetical 650-vote lead) would have to win that pile of absentees by a 60-40 margin. However, he’s won the Election Day tally in those three counties by just 56-44. What’s more, absentee ballots in Pennsylvania traditionally favor Democrats, and in fact, they’ve already done so in this race: In Allegheny County, Lamb won the Election Day count by a margin of 15 percent but won the absentees by 24 percent.
So the last two Westmoreland precincts, as well as the county’s absentees, just came in, cutting Lamb’s lead from 847 votes to 579 votes. That leaves Lamb’s margin at 49.8 to 49.6. However, it also means the remaining pile of absentees is now much small—only around 1,400—so Saccone has fewer votes left that he can use to make up the difference.
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