This morning we don't know who yet is the winner in PA-18, Democrat Conor Lamb has a lead of six hundred and change, but over a thousand absentee ballots and thousands of provisional ballots have to be counted still, and Republican Rick Saccone is talking about filing for a recount. But even if Saccone does end up coming from behind to win, the damage to the GOP last night is done. There's no way the race should be this close in a district that Trump won by 19 points in November 2016 and Republicans now know they are in mortal peril come this November. Vox's Dylan Scott:
When you take a step back and look at the 2018 race for the House, you realize: There are more than 110 Republican-held House districts that Trump won by less than he won in the district where the Republican House candidate just effectively tied with the Democrat.
Strategists and election analysts on Twitter couldn’t quite agree on exactly how many districts — 114? 118? 119? — but the number is, by all accounts, greater than 110. A few months ago, you wouldn’t have heard Democratic operatives, even at their most optimistic, describe the 2018 battleground as that big. (As of last month, Democrats had just expanded their battleground map to 101 seats.)
There are the districts Hillary Clinton won, of course, but there are also the suburban, classically Republican districts where Trump has soured the electorate, and those white working-class districts with Obama-Trump voters.
This comes with plenty of caveats. This was a special election. Republican incumbents are going to be stronger than Republicans in an open seat like the Pennsylvania 18th. Conor Lamb was a particularly strong Democratic candidate, and Rick Saccone might have been an unusually weak Republican nominee.
But still: Democrats need 24 seats to reclaim the House majority. If Tuesday night is any guide, it looks like they will have a lot of opportunities to get them.
Think about what this means. In an average year maybe 5-10% of House seats are even in play, 95%+ of incumbents keep the seat in their own party every two years. That usually means 20-40 seats are in play, and maybe half of those are toss-ups at most. Districts are drawn that way for a reason. Republicans have had the gerrymandering advantage recently nationally, but Democrats have done it too in some of the states they control. They're designed to keep 90% of incumbents in power (and in the Senate, holding elections every six years accomplishes the same result).
But this time around even given the GOP's massive gerrymandering advantage in dozens of states, more than 110 GOP districts now have to be considered on the board for Democratic pickups. That's more than 25% of the entire House in play and all of it red-to-blue. Yes, there are districts where I expect Republicans to win a blue seat here or there (there are a couple of open Democratic seats in Minnesota and Nevada in rural Trump areas and New Hampshire's seat always seems to switch every couple of years) but Dems could pick up dozens in November. Dozens.
By the way, Trump's visit to the district over the weekend just ended up reminding people what he did to their health care.
Public Policy Polling conducted a telephone exit poll election survey of voters who cast ballots in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election yesterday. Voters who voted in the contest were asked about the role of health care in their decision.
The exit poll shows that health care was a top priority issue to voters in this district and that voters believed Democrat Conor Lamb’s views were more in step with theirs.
In 2016, voters in this district backed Donald Trump by 20 points, but last night they backed a Democrat for Congress in a referendum on the health care plans of the Republican Congress:
-Health care was a top issue to voters. Health care was ranked as a top issue for 52% of voters (15% saying it was the most important issue and another 37% saying it was very important). Only 19% said it was not that important or not important at all.
- Conor Lamb won big especially among voters for whom health care was a top priority. Among voters who said health care was the most important issue for them, Lamb beat Rick Saccone 64-36 and among the broader group of voters who said it was either the most important or a very important issue Lamb beat Saccone 62-38.
- On health care, voters said Lamb better reflected their views by 7 points (45% to 38%) over Saccone. With independents, that gap widened to 16 points with 50% saying Lamb’s health care views were more in line with theirs to only 34% for Saccone.
- Voters were less likely to support Saccone because of the Republican health care agenda. Saccone’s support of the Republican health care agenda made 41% of voters less likely to vote for him and only 28% more likely to support him.
-Voters in this heavily Republican district disapproved of the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act by 14 points (53% to 39%).
It's 2010 only in reverse, and the loss of Obamacare is going to decapitate Republicans in November. The GOP knows it. Look for more Republicans to head for the exits this month.