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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Analysis: Local campaign in Pennsylvania helped Lamb secure Democrats' surprise result

“We followed what I learned in the Marines – leave no one behind. We went everywhere; we talked to everyone; we invited everyone in."

Conor Lamb addressing an election night rally in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, before the counting. Lamb has attributed his lead to connecting with everyone in the build-up . Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
Conor Lamb addressing an election night rally in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, before the counting. Lamb has attributed his lead to connecting with everyone in the build-up . Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

It is not official yet in the US House race in Pennsylvania, but the Democratic Party have flipped their first Congressional seat deep in the Republican stronghold.

Mr Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine reserve, has gone ahead and declared victory with a slender lead of 627 votes with 375 military and overseas ballot yet to be counted and the Republican party expected to demand a recount.

Mr Lamb, the first Democrat to come that far in the district in 15 years, drew high level of enthusiasm and turnout among his party base and working class voters.

His margins in rural areas were higher than both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in the district. “We followed what I learned in the Marines – leave no one behind. We went everywhere; we talked to everyone; we invited everyone in,” Mr Lamb told his supporters as he declared victory.

The results coming in an election year for Congress, reverberated nationally. “The Democratic over-performance, especially in a heavily Republican District that Mr Trump won by 20 points adds to the sense that Democrats are highly energised – especially following surprising performances in recent months in Alabama and Virginia”, Shibley Telhami, director of the "critical issues poll" at the University of Maryland, told The National.

Despite Republicans outspending Democrats 3 to 1, and Mr Trump and his daughter Ivanka, and other cabinet officials showing up repeatedly in the district to campaign for Mr Saccone, they failed to galvanise enough support and save the seat. Mr Telhami read in that an alarming sign for Republicans ahead of the mid-terms this November.

“The Trump factor as an asset to Republican candidates is being called into question” said Mr Telhami after three candidates he supported in traditionally Republican areas failed to prevail.

“Sure, Trump may be able to energise his base, but now, he appears to be energising Democrats even more. That spells trouble for Republicans”, the expert said.

Mr Lamb ran a local-driven campaign, abandoning some of the national policies for Democrats on gun control, tweaking his stance on abortion, and declining support for House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

His apparent win is sending shock waves in Republican headquarters. CNN reported that House majority leader Paul Ryan was due to meet with his Republican colleagues on Wednesday and call for a more aggressive campaigning strategy ahead of the mid-terms. Mr Trump, who tweeted about trade and new cabinet nominations, has waded into the PA-18 results.

Still, Mr Telhami cautioned of Democratic overconfidence going into November. “Trends appear to favour Democrats at the moment, but few months between now and the elections is an eternity in the Trump era.” Democrats would need to flip 24 Republican seats to regain majority in the House that they lost in 2011.