Conor Lamb (AP/Keith Srakocic)

Conor Lamb edges out Saccone ahead of Pennsylvania special election: poll

If Trump were banking on tariffs to boost Republican chances in Pennsylvania, his strategy didn't pay off


Charlie May
March 12, 2018 10:40PM (UTC)

A new poll yielded the most positive results yet for Democratic candidate Conor Lamb in the upcoming special election in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, giving him a slight edge over his opponent for tomorrow (Tuesday)'s special election.

Monday's Monmouth University poll showed that Lamb holds a 51 percent to 45 percent lead over his Republican rival Rep. Rick Saccone, provided the voter turnout reflects the "Democratic surge similar to voting patterns seen in other special elections over the past year."

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Interestingly enough, Lamb still holds a lead — 49 percent to 47 percent — when "using a historical midterm lower turnout model," though the lead is much slimmer. Using a more optimistic model that measures turnout as similar to that of a presidential election year, Lamb commands a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage.

"This marks a turnaround from last month’s Monmouth poll of the race, when Saccone held a small lead in all the models – 49% to 46% in the surge model, 48% to 44% in the high turnout model, and 50% to 45% in the low turnout model," the poll showed.

For the Democrats to come away with a significant upset victory, the strategy is obvious: high turnout.

Saccone's favorability rating among likely voters — 47 percent to 43 percent — is also lower than Lamb's, which sits at 53 percent to 33 percent, the poll showed.

President Donald Trump threw his weight behind Saccone on Saturday night when he attended a rally where he endorsed him in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. The poll results showed that it is still unclear if the president's recent decision to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports swayed voters. Only 3 percent of likely voters said they were more likely to support Saccone as a result of the tariffs, and 1 percent expressed they'd support Lamb.

Interestingly, 96 percent of voters said "the tariff announcement did nothing to change their vote in this race," the poll showed.

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Republicans, however, have expressed skepticism of Saccone as a candidate that can come away victorious against a young, former Marine who leans towards the center in a district that has gone Republican, but holds deep blue-collar roots.

"This district has voted overwhelmingly Republican in recent elections, but a large number of these voters have blue-collar Democratic roots. Lamb seems to have connected with them," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Lamb's campaign has also spent far more money, while Saccone has relied on heavy backing from the National Republican Congressional Committee. In total, both parties are on track to exceed $12 million in advertisement spending.

That a Democrat is polling ahead in a March special election in a district that hasn't chosen a Democrat since the 2000 election is a quite a feat in itself. Lamb does have a chance to come away with an upset, which would be perceived as a major rebuke of Trump — who won the district by 20 points in the 2016 election.

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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