Closely followed US House election in Pennsylvania too close to call

Congressional candidate for Pennsylvanias 18th district and the audience recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign rally with United Mine Workers of America

It's an office that appears focused on a bygone era of Democratic leadership.

Republican Rick Saccone says he's not surprised he's in a close race with Democrat Conor Lamb in a southwest Pennsylvania congressional district that President Donald Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.

The number of volunteers who turned out for Lamb outnumbered both Obama campaigns, the Clinton campaign, and recent gubernatorial and congressional races, Mills said in an interview at her office on the eve of the election.

What Evan Smith, the longtime political analyst for the Texas Tribune, said last week of Texas Democrats' quarter-century of wishful thinking of turning their state blue is true of Democrats more generally.

As voting commenced Tuesday, polls continued to show the upstart Lamb with a slim lead in a region that Republicans have dominated for years.

The president won the district by almost 20 points in 2016, but Lamb's strength in the race underscored the political challenges facing the GOP: The party controlling the White House typically loses seats in the midterms, and Trump's unpopularity does not help.

Republican dominance had been so strong in the district, a patchwork of small towns, farms and Pittsburgh suburbs, that Democrats ran no candidates in the previous two U.S. House elections here. Other polls have shown them neck-and-neck.

This is a Republican district, the special election is being held to replace a Republican congressman and Trump won the PA-18 by 20 points.

Lamb, on the other hand, "is the ideal candidate for that seat", said Jack Posobiec, a fellow MAGA-ite and Pennsylvania native, describing Lamb as a "Pro-Trump Dem veteran".

"He's just interested in solving problems and not being a Democrat or Republican", Newman said.

Of course, Lamb is a Democrat.

If Lamb wins, it will dominate headlines for days or weeks and will be viewed as a precursor to Democrats taking back the House.

In another year, the Republican nominee would be widely considered a shoo-in to succeed Murphy, who resigned last year after news broke that he reportedly asked a woman with whom he had an affair to get an abortion.

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At midnight with all precincts reporting, unofficial results had Lamb leading Saccone by fewer than 600 votes. "I'll tell you some more-my wife and I saw it again today-they have a hatred for God".

In a final-hours message on Fox Business Network, Saccone said that he was ready and willing to help Trump.

For the White House and its Republican allies, a Tuesday loss would represent both a profound embarrassment and major cause for concern in the broader push to defend majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.

Still, Saccone's campaign struggled to gain traction from the start. A lot of the money has come from the establishment wings of the GOP, including the RNC and the NRCC-which spent over $3.5 million on Saccone. Polls closed at 8 p.m. When I texted Mike Cernovich, conspiracy theorist and king of the MAGA faction of the Internet, to get his thoughts, he was initially confused: "I don't even know who is running or that there was a race!"

Saccone maintains an A+ rating from the NRA and has sponsored several bills aimed at bolstering gun rights, including a 2016 bill to overturn Chuck E. Cheese's policy of refusing service to customers with firearms. It's a farce and a sham, but in a year when Democrats seem to have more motivation, it may dampen Republican turnout to have a Democrat who supposedly agrees with them on key issues.

"Would I be happy if they banned automatic weapons?" "We had no qualms about supporting him as a candidate", Giarrusso added.

The stakes in the high-profile special election were more political than practical.

"Who wins or loses is important", Marc Meredith, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said.

Comparing Tuesday's results to the elections in New Jersey, Virginia, and Alabama a year ago will be much more indicative of the electorate's mood heading into the midterms, he said.

The district has voted for the GOP presidential nominee in every election since 2000, and Murphy ran unopposed in 2012 and 2014. Lamb pitched himself as an average guy from the mostly white, working class district.

Trump won the Pittsburgh-area district handily in 2016, but Tuesday's race is said to be a toss-up.

Speaking before Lamb claimed victory, Saccone - who has described himself as "Trump before Trump was Trump" - said the contest was not yet over. "The wave of voters that came out for Trump, they check out once he's no longer in".

Mills, the Democratic leader in Allegheny County, said the outcome would provide clues about how the midterms might play out this fall. We're going to fight all the way into the end.

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