Early Wednesday morning, most news sources were saying that Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate, at least seemed to have won a razor’s edge close election to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th district in Congress.
A special election in the 18th was necessary because Tim Murphy, the Republican who had represented it since 2003, a married father of one child who had made a reputation for himself as a Pro Life crusader, was caught advising his mistress to procure an abortion. He resigned his seat last October.
This election was one that a Republican (one not caught in Murphy-scale hypocrisy) ‘should’ have been able to win. Murphy had been winning it repeatedly and easily. So had recent Republican Presidential candidates.
Right Wing View
The conservative blog Red State says that the result should be worrisome for Republicans. A rally on the Saturday before the voting, featuring President Trump, probably did help close the gap, turning a larger Murphy lead into a cliff-hanger end result. But, Red State’s analysis continues, there shouldn’t have been any gap in Murphy’s favor in the first place: “Trump shouldn’t have had to go here at all. Outside groups shouldn’t have had to spend $10 million.” The Republicans lost a ‘safe’ seat.
While vote counting was still underway, Breitbart said that the final impression left on voters may have been that of the President’s firing of his Secretary of State the day before, and that impression of administration disarray may “bigfoot” the results. Breitbart expressed concerns that if the result did go Lamb’s way, Democrats would “giddily advance the narrative that the election was a referendum on Trump.”
On twitter, Scott Adams, best known as the cartoonist who created Dilbert, tweets the question: “If a Trump Republican in Pennsylvania loses to a Trump Democrat, will it be reported as a repudiation of Trump?”
Though calling Lamb a “Trump Democrat” is a bit of a stretch, it is safe to say that he sees himself as a centrist, that he has distanced himself from some typically “liberal” positions. Ironically perhaps, given the way this seat became vacant, one of the ways he distances himself is by taking a fairly conservative view of abortion.
Left Wing View
That post became the origin of a thread in which Conor’s place on a left/right scale was much discussed over subsequent hours. One participant said that Lamb will “most likely vote for the majority of Trump’s policies.” Another, with a different take, said, “Once in office, his views will look more leftward. Wait and see.”
Lamb himself has worked to keep the politics local. He told CNN Wednesday morning, “What happens when you campaign in real life as much as possible is that those divisions [for or against Trump] go away. Everyone gave me a fair shake.”
The chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was more exuberant in his celebratory words. He said, “There are more than one hundred districts more favorable for Democrats than this one and we look forward to competing hard in every single one.”
Josh Voorhees, writing in Slate cautioned that the results of this election may not easily be replicated elsewhere. The lesson might be that Democrats can defeat Trump-supported Republicans if they are centrists. But if the national leadership tries to act on that message, it risks infuriating its own leftward base.