Democrat apparent winner in Pennsylvania upset, deals blow to Trump and GOP

WASHINGTON — Democrat Conor Lamb is the apparent winner over Republican Rick Saccone in the special election on Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, according to an NBC News projection.

Lamb, who declared victory early Wednesday morning, was leading by 641 votes in a district long held by the GOP that President Donald Trump, who backed Saccone, carried by 20 points in 2016. Saccone has not conceded and his campaign is in touch with legal counsel.

Shortly before 1:00 a.m., Lamb was introduced as "congressman-elect" at his election night party.

"It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!" Lamb told cheering supporters.

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Pennsylvania special election -- Conor Lamb and Rick Saccone
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Pennsylvania special election -- Conor Lamb and Rick Saccone
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 6: Former Vice President Joe Biden attends a rally in support of Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb (C) Tuesday March 6, 2018 at the Union Carpenters Training Center in Pittsburgh. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Rick Saccone. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in support of Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone during a Make America Great Again rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 10, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 6: Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb talks with supporters at a rally Tuesday March 6, 2018 at the Union Carpenters Training Center in Pittsburgh. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Rick Saccone. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: Surrounded by campaign volunteers, Rick Saccone, Republican Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, takes questions form reporters at the Republican Committee of Allegheny County offices, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Democratic candidate Conor Lamb. President Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally with Saccone. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: A cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump sits against the wall after Rick Saccone, Republican Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, spoke to reporters at the Republican Committee of Allegheny County offices, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Democratic candidate Conor Lamb. President Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally with Saccone. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: (L to R) Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Conor Lamb, Democratic Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, and USW International President Leo Gerardand gesture together after Lamb spoke at a rally at the United Steelworkers Building, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Republican candidate Rick Saccone. President Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally with Saccone. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: Campaign volunteers await the arrival of Rick Saccone, Republican Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, at the Republican Committee of Allegheny County offices, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Democratic candidate Conor Lamb. President Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally with Saccone. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: Conor Lamb, Democratic Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania� 18th district, speaks at a rally at the United Steelworkers Building, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Republican candidate Rick Saccone. President Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally with Saccone. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 6: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally in support of Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb Tuesday March 6, 2018 at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Rick Saccone. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
WAYNESBURG, PA - MARCH 5: Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone meets with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, PA - JANUARY 13: Members of the audience listen to Democrat Conor Lamb, a former U.S. attorney and US Marine Corps veteran running to represent Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district, at the American Legion Post 902 on January 13, 2018 in Houston, Pennsylvania in the southwestern corner of the state. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District next week in a bid to help Lamb's republican opponent, Rick Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 6: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally in support of Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb Tuesday March 6, 2018 at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Rick Saccone. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 6: Former Vice President Joe Biden visited Pittsburgh in support of Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb Tuesday March 6, 2018 at the Union Carpenters Training Center in Pittsburgh. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Rick Saccone. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 6: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally in support of Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb Tuesday March 6, 2018 at the Union Carpenters Training Center in Pittsburgh. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Rick Saccone. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
A man watches U.S. President Donald Trump speak in support of Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone during a Make America Great Again rally in Moon Township, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 10, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 6: Union carpenters wait to hear former Vice President Joe Biden speak in support of Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb Tuesday March 6, 2018 at the Union Carpenters Training Center in Pittsburgh. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Rick Saccone. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with special election Republican candidate Rick Saccone upon his arrival in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 18, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: A supporter wears a sticker in support of Conor Lamb, Democratic Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania� 18th district, at a rally at the United Steelworkers Building, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Republican candidate Rick Saccone. President Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally with Saccone. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WAYNESBURG, PA - MARCH 5: Rob and Carolyn Trozzi of Waynesburg pose with a Trump t-shirt after listening to Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone speak with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
WAYNESBURG, PA - MARCH 5: Vincent Fusca places a campaign sign on his truck for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone before the candidate met with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
WAYNESBURG, PA - MARCH 5: Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone meets with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
WAYNESBURG, PA - MARCH 5: Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone meets with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, PA - JANUARY 13: Democrat Conor Lamb, a former U.S. attorney and US Marine Corps veteran running to represent Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district, before a speech to an audience at the American Legion Post 902 on January 13, 2018 in Houston, Pennsylvania in the southwestern corner of the state. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District next week in a bid to help Lamb's republican opponent, Rick Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Conor Lamb (L), the Democratic candidate in the special US congressional election in Pennsylvania's 18th District to be held March 13, 2018, greets a supporter (C) and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (R) during a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Friday, March 9, 2018. US President Donald Trump won the district comfortably in the 2016 presidential race, but Lamb is running neck and neck with his Republican opponent Rick Saccone. / AFP PHOTO / Michael Mathes (Photo credit should read MICHAEL MATHES/AFP/Getty Images)
WAYNESBURG, PA - MARCH 5: A volunteer places campaign signs for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone before he spoke with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. Saccone is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb. President Donald Trump plans to visit Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District March 10, 2018 in a bid to help Saccone. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 9: A sign in support of Conor Lamb, Democratic Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania� 18th district, hangs in the lobby of the United Steelworkers Building before a rally for Lamb, March 9, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lamb is running in a tight race for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Republican candidate Rick Saccone. President Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a campaign rally with Saccone. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
MOON TOWNSHIP, PA - MARCH 10: President Donald J. Trump speaks to supporters at the Atlantic Aviation Hanger on March 10, 2018 in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. The president made a visit in a bid to gain support for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone who is running for 18th Congressional District in a seat vacated by Tim Murphy. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump supporters attends the Make America Great Again Rally on March 10, 2018 in Moon Township, Pennsylvania. President Trump travelled to Pennsylvania to speak at a ' Make America Great Again ' rally on behalf of Republican candidate Rick Saccone. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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Lamb, 33, was already looking ahead to Capitol Hill, saying, "Our job in Congress is to attack the problems, not each other."

Earlier, Saccone, 60, addressed his supporters and stopped short of any declarations.

"We're not giving up," Saccone said at about 11:30 p.m. "We're going to be working late into the night, tomorrow...Don't give up! We're going to win it!"

Under state law, supporters of either candidate can request a recount if they believe there was an error in the initial tally. There is no provision, however, for automatic recounts in tight congressional elections.

Bob Branstetter, general consultant for the Saccone campaign, told NBC News that the campaign has been in touch with legal counsel and is exploring all its options.

The little-known third party Libertarian candidate had over 1,300 votes, more than the margin separating the two major candidates.

The race is being closely watched as a pulse check on the political health of President Donald Trump ahead of November's crucial midterm elections.

But the contest was never supposed to be competitive. In fact, there are 114 Republican-held House seats more competitive than Pennsylvania's 18th, according to a Democratic tabulation of the Cook Political Report's partisan voting index.

The race flew under the radar for months because no one — most of all Democrats — thought they had a chance. The western Pennsylvania district is in the heart of "Trump country," as the president himself dubbed it Saturday during a campaign appearance for Saccone, and it voted overwhelmingly Republican in the past three presidential elections.

The district was gerrymandered to guarantee easy reelections to its former occupant, Tim Murphy, a Republican, who was forced to resign last year after it was revealed that the pro-life lawmaker had pressured his mistress to have an abortion.

But Lamb, propelled by the national anti-Trump tailwind, has steadily gained in recent polls.

Republicans sounded the alarm as early as January and began dumping millions of dollars into the race to boost Saccone.

With two visits to the district, Trump led a parade of high-profile surrogates for Saccone, underscoring both how invested the White House and GOP leaders felt in the race, and how nervous they were about its outcome.

National Democrats, on the other hand, kept their distance. Determined not to repeat the fiasco of last year's special election in Georgia, when their multi-million-dollar intervention ended up tainting the party's candidate in the eyes of conservative voters, they gave Lamb room to define himself.

Drawing on his background as a Marine and former federal prosecutor, Lamb disowned Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and staked out positions on abortion, guns and fracking that hewed closer to the GOP.

But Lamb also embraced the classics of the Democratic playbook, hammering Saccone for allegedly wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare, and uniting Pittsburgh's powerful unions behind him in a way no Democrat had before in that district.

While the district will soon no longer exist, thanks to a recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and one House seat is not worth much in 2018 Washington, the race was nonetheless freighted with real consequences for both parties as they gear up for a crucial midterm election.

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