WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he doesn’t expect to see repeats of Tuesday’s Pennsylvania congressional special election in other places around the country.
With all precincts reporting, Democrat Conor Lamb had 113,813 votes to Republican Rick Saccone’s 113,186 votes, according to unofficial totals from Pennsylvania’s Department of State. Libertarian Drew Miller had 1,379 votes. Saccone has not yet conceded, while Lamb claimed victory Tuesday night.
President Trump, who traveled to the district for a last-ditch get-out-the-vote rally, won the district by nearly 20 points in 2016.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill today, Ryan said of the results, “I don’t know that there’s a big surprise.”
“Win or lose, as you say, it’s too soon to say what’s going to happen,” he said. “I think the candidate that’s going to win this race is the candidate that ran as a pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative. That’s the candidate that’s going to win this race.” Lamb vowed to not support Pelosi for House Democratic leader if he won.
“So this is something that you’re not going to see repeated, because they didn’t have a primary. They were able to pick a candidate who can run as a conservative, who ran against the minority leader, who ran on a conservative agenda,” Ryan said of Democrats. “You will have primaries in all these other races, and the primaries bring them to the left. So I just don’t think that this is something you’re going to see a repeat of.”
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said GOPs “have to be careful about making sweeping predictions” because “we aren’t even in full momentum on tax reform and the impact that it’s having on bigger paychecks and more jobs for families all across this country.”
Ryan said the message to any nervous incumbents heading into midterms is to be “focusing on the accomplishments we have and how it’s improved people’s lives.”
“Also, we’ve got more work to do and we’re in the middle of negotiating a budget agreement — or an appropriations that will finally rebuild our military, that will make good on our promises to fight the opioid epidemic, to help find a cure for cancer, to make a good down payment on the president’s infrastructure agenda,” he added. “So there is a lot that we’ve done, there’s a lot that we’re going to do, and there’s a great record to run on.”
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a moderate who is not running for re-election, told CNN today that he considers Lamb’s victory “a political earthquake.”
“What we’ve seen is that there have been about four special House elections this year — Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, and now Pennsylvania, as well as Georgia. In each of those races, the Republican candidates have seriously underperformed the president with the exception of Georgia. They all underperformed the members who preceded them and so it’s pretty clear to me that we are running into a very major headwind,” Dent predicted.
“And I’ll tell you what, if you’re a Republican member in a pretty safe seat like this one was, that’s where I’d be nervous because those members are not used to running these types of competitive — in these competitive situations. That is really what’s going to, I think, really be the big issue,” he added. “The marginal swing districts, they know they’re in for a fight. It’s these guys in these safer seats. I think this is a wake-up call for them.”
Dent advised GOPs, “If you’re a Republican running in this election cycle you better be able to develop your own brand and sell yourself because if you’re just simply going to try to run on the — you know, say the president’s coattails or the national environment, you’re going to — you could get swept up and swept out.”