Pennsylvania result marks potential doom for Republicans hope of holding onto congress, say experts

Republican Rick Saccone should have won the contest without difficulty 

Paul Ryan on Pennsylvania's special congressional race: Both candidates ran as Conservatives

Democrat Conor Lamb’s apparent victory in Pennsylvania - in a district Donald Trump won by more than 20 points - should leave Republicans fearful of a possible “electoral wave” against their party later this year, experts have said.

As officials considered seeking a recount in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, where its candidate, Rick Saccone, should have been an easy winner, Republicans across the country were trembling at the message the result carried: that Democrats can win seats even in conservative areas if they have the right candidate.

“The Pennsylvania outcome will reverberate nationally and locally. Nationally, Republicans will need to work to avoid more retirements,” wrote Dave Wasserman, of the Cook Political Report, a respected non-partisan analysis site.

“Filing deadlines have passed in only a handful of major states, including California, Illinois, Ohio and Texas. They’ll also need to research and test for effective lines of attack against potential Democratic nominees.”

Democrats believe that with Mr Trump’s approval at a record low and with a similarly record number of candidates from its party preparing to run in November, they have an excellent opportunity to regain control of at least one of the houses of congress.

The Republicans currently hold a 51-49 advantage in the Senate and a 24 seat lead in the House. Democrats believe the enthusiasm among its supporters, allied with that they claim is widespread dissatisfaction with Mr Trump, will result result in a wave, or even a tsunami, in its favour.

“Let it be known that the Blue Wave of 2018 began in Pennsylvania,” said Jack Hanna, that state's Democratic chairman. “And this is only the beginning of the wave.”

Mike Doyle, a Democratic congressman from a neighbouring district, told the New York Times Mr Lamb had benefited from “buyer’s remorse” among supporters of Mr Trump, and he had tailored his message to the conservative-leaning area.

“This guy has made a lot of promises that aren’t being kept,” Mr Doyle said of the President.

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But some experts also warned it too still too soon to say whether the result that played out in Pennsylvania will be repeated in other conservative areas across the country in November.

After all, many had expected the youthful Democrat Jon Ossoff to win the special election held last June in the Georgia’s 6th Congressional district but he was defeated by Republican Karen Handel, despite Mr Trump having performed less well there then he did in Pennsylvania. In other races, Democrats lost contests they had similarly expected to emerge as winners.

Kelly Ditmar, a professor of political science at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, said the message all Republicans ought to have taken away from the race, was how they could best take on Democratic challengers in November. She said she believed the Democrats had a better chance of taking the Senate than the House, but said it was too early to say it would definitely happen.

“A lot depends on what happens between now and the elections. For example, if Trump is able to claim some sort of his victory if he meets the North Korean leader, that could have have an impact,” she told The Independent.

She said another takeaway from the race, was the importance of good candidates. Most analysts from both parities believed Mr Lamb was a stronger candidate than Mr Saccone, a 60-year-old Air Force veteran who struggled to raise funds.

Republican Speaker Paul Ryan was among those who criticised Mr Saccone’s campaign.

“In order to win in a tough environment we need good candidates who run strong campaigns,” Mr Ryan said, according to USA Today.

“The Rick Saccone campaign was a joke. If we had even a serviceable candidate in this race, it would have been easy.”

Mr Wasserman said the message the Republican leadership would also be taking away was that they were going have to "help more of its candidates than it had expected to". Doing so, he said, would cost money, time and resources.

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