5 things to know about today's special election in western Pennsylvania


Centrist Democrat Conor Lamb is facing ultra-conservative Rick Saccone in a special election for Pennsylvania's 18th district, which has been reliably red for 15 years.

Conor Lamb, Democratic congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, votes at his polling station March 13, 2018 in Mt. Lebanon, Pa.

Republicans are scrambling to avoid a political embarrassment in a conservative district of Pennsylvania, where a pro-gun, pro-union Democrat who opposes abortion could be about to win a congressional election in one of President Donald Trump's white, working-class strongholds.

Almost three hours after polls closed and with 99 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results had Lamb leading Saccone by fewer than 100 votes. A Lamb victory could provide Democrats huge momentum going into November, while also providing a template for how to win in districts that were pro-Trump in 2016.

Voters are going to the polls today in Pennsylvania's 18th District to decide between Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone in a uncharacteristically close race in the deeply Republican district.

He did it as national Republican groups filled airwaves and social media with depictions of the first-time candidate as little more than a lemming for Nancy Pelosi - the California Democrat, House minority leader.

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"It's widely expected that we will lose", said Alex Conant, a GOP strategist not involved in the race who was a top aide on Florida Sen.

"I just don't want to put any more kinks or put any more barriers in front of the president", she said.

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.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and Saccone have both used the tax plan heavily in their messaging to voters in the district. "I think he'll do a great job in Congress, and we need a good man in Congress bad".

At Friday's event with supporters and volunteers at the party's Allegheny County office, which featured a cardboard cutout of Trump, Saccone, 60, dismissed the anonymous complaints about his campaign.

Saccone spent the final hours of the campaign with Donald Trump, Jr, the president's oldest son, rallying at a VFW hall in his hometown of Elizabeth and warning Republicans that "the left" was energized for all the wrong reasons.

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We seem to have gone beyond candidates graciously acknowledging "the voice of the people" to those who can't stand to hear from anyone who disagrees with them.

Nervous Nellie Republicans can take some consolation in the fact that Democrats still have miles to go to recoup the 1,042 seats up and down the ballot that, by Fox News' count, they lost during the hopey-changey presidency of Barack Obama.

Lamb, on the other hand, "is the flawless candidate for that seat", said Jack Posobiec, a fellow MAGA-ite and Pennsylvania native, describing Lamb as a "Pro-Trump Dem veteran". Saccone serves as a state legislator who is an Air Force veteran.

"I don't know anybody who got any bonuses", he said.

Conor Lamb, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks during a campaign rally with members of the United Mine Workers of America at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.

Ultimately, though, it's Saccone's embrace of Trump that would make the difference for him. A 33-year-old Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor, his positions don't always follow national Democratic Party orthodoxy. The AFL-CIO estimates there are 87,000 votes from union households in Pennsylvania's 18th district, around a fifth of the electorate. "He needs a good wingman".

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Several members of the Trump administration and family have campaigned on behalf of Saccone. You don't see me in the New-York-City-rubber-chicken-dinner-nonsense circuit.