In yesterday’s Pennsylvania District 18 special election, Republican Rick Saccone appears headed to defeat against Democratic challenger Conor Lamb by less than a thousand votes. If Saccone loses in the district that candidate Donald Trump won by 20 points just 16 months ago, it will be a crushing blow not just for the state representative and water boarding advocate, but also for the entire Republican Party.
Too close to call?
As the election celebration parties wound down last night and 100% of all precincts were reporting their initial results, Lamb was sitting on a lead of less than 600 votes. Barring a recount, the only hope left for the Republicans rests with the absentee ballots. And by all accounts, this is a very thin hope.
Not daunted by the calamitous results, Saccone addressed his supporters in Elizabeth Township with a Pollyannaish message of defiance.
“It’s not over yet. We’re still fighting the fight. We’re gonna fight all the way to the end. You know I never give up.”
Saccone’s threat to keep on fighting could have been merely rhetorical flourish, but according to Pittsburgh television station KDKA, one of their journalists was told, “We’re exploring ALL legal options,” by a consultant from Saccone’s campaign.
Although the Associated Press declined to call a winner, Democrat Conor Lamb gambled that he would eventually win and declared victory at 12:45am.
“It took longer than we thought, but we did it,” he told supporters.
Drew Gray Miller, the most hated man in America
While Lamb was celebrating cautiously, one candidate who could claim an unreserved triumph on the night was Libertarian candidate Drew Gray Miller. Although largely ignored by the mainstream media, who focused almost exclusively on the national implications for the race, Miller managed to scoop up over 1,300 votes, more than covering the spread between the two establishment party candidates.
Sensing that his role in the race was likely to receive a lot more attention as the night wore on, Miller tweeted in the early stages:
We’re only a few hours away from me being the most hated man in America #PA18
— Drew Gray Miller (@DrewGrayMiller) 14 March 2018
In a phone call with ABC’s Adam Kelsey, Miller said he was thrilled with the result.
“Miller said that he believes the margin here sends the message that every vote counts and that he’s extremely proud to be the first third-party candidate in the district in decades.”
After looking at all of the numbers, I’m realizing there is no mathematical way for me to win. I therefore would like to formally concede to @ConorLambPA and @Saccone4PA18. It was a fun race. I will not be challenging the results or asking for a recount. #PA18
— Drew Gray Miller (@DrewGrayMiller) March 14, 2018
Saccone loses elections, not mustaches
Whether or not Saccone loses this election in the end, it is clear that he is still a biggest loser from the outcome.
With national Republican groups sinking a colossal $9 million into his campaign, even a narrow win is a catastrophe for the GOP, and they have already decided who to blame.
Cory Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC said, “This may not be nice to say: The fact is that the Saccone campaign was a joke. If we had a candidate who could walk and chew gum at the same time, we would have [easily] won the race.”
An anonymous Republican strategist even criticized Saccone’s facial hair to the Washington Examiner: “It’s a porn stache. He should have lost the mustache.”
In contrast, whatever the result, Conor Lamb has single-handedly created a new roadmap to possible victory for Democrats running in “deep-red” districts. Expect to see more Conor Lambs popping up around the country in November.
Whether or not Saccone’s face fungus is ultimately to blame, things are not looking good as the Republican as more results continue to trickle in.
— Meghan Schiller (@MeghanKDKA) 14 March 2018