The narrow Democratic lead in deep-red western Pennsylvania is a “bit of a wake-up call,” House Speaker Paul Ryan is privately warning his fellow party members.
Ryan told House Republicans on Wednesday they need to “get to work,” fundraise and not be caught off guard heading into the midterm campaign season after Democrat Conor Lamb appeared to edge past his GOP opponent in a closely watched special congressional election.
Republicans poured millions into the race, attempting to vault state lawmaker Rick Saccone to victory. President Trump campaigned for Saccone last week.
But Lamb, a former Marine who bucked the national Democratic machine, came out roughly 700 votes ahead.
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The race in Pennsylvania's 18th District had still not been officially called. Lamb currently leads Saccone by 627 votes in a district Trump carried by 20 points in 2016.
The win would largely symbolic as the district is slated to be redrawn before the November election.
Publicly, Ryan was more upbeat, blaming the loss on Lamb’s centrist views and praising Trump for narrowing the gap between the two candidates.
“I think the President helped close this race,” he said.
Ryan reportedly urged colleagues to tout the GOP-passed tax plan and to remind voters Democrats opposed it as they enter the upcoming midterms.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, said Lamb’s strong showing means her party has won a clear victory.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) told The Associated Press that the triumph is “already there.”
There were several lessons learned from the race, Pelosi said.
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“Don’t worry about going after Trump. Just tell people what you have in your heart and in your plan for them,” she said.
While Lamb didn’t campaign as anti-Trump, he did publicly disavow Pelosi and other party leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Pelosi said she wasn’t bothered by Lamb’s pledge to not back her to lead House Democrats, saying, “That's the least of it.”
She says Democrats just wanted Lamb to win.