Looking to put a positive spin on a stunning political upset, President Donald Trump said Democrat Conor Lamb — the yet-to-be-declared winner of last week’s closely watched special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district — “ran on a campaign that said very nice things about me.”
Trump made the comment at a private fundraiser for Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley a day after the March 13 election, The Washington Post reported.
But did Lamb’s campaign actually say “very nice things” about the president, or was this an attempt to minimize a looming Republican loss in a reliably red district?
What Lamb said about Trump
Lamb said very little about the president during the expedited campaign to fill a seat vacated late last year by disgraced former U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy who held the spot for more than a decade. But Lamb also held off on criticizing the commander-in-chief at a time when many Democrats have made the president the focus of their calls to action.
Lamb was careful not to alienate voters in the traditionally conservative district, said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll and professor of Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.
“Lamb did not want to arouse the Trump supporters in a district [Trump] won by 20 points,” Madonna said. “He wanted the election to be local, where he could focus on his strengths.”
Asked if she agreed that the Lamb campaign had praise for Trump around points of agreement, campaign manager Abby Murphy said “No, I don’t think it was ever that specific.”
She added: “What was important to the voters of this district were things like jobs and the heroin epidemic and infrastructure. I think the congressman-elect made it very clear that he’s willing to work with whomever to make those things happen. I think it’s very clear that that’s what his intent was.”
Lamb is the projected winner of the 18th District seat, with just a few hundred votes separating him and Republican candidate Rick Saccone, who conceded to Lamb on Wednesday. Votes were still being tallied and reviewed as of Wednesday, and the results remained unofficial. Republicans previously said they were considering challenging the results, alleging the vote was tainted by irregularities and other issues.
On Tuesday, Trump said Saccone had narrowly lost the race, CNN reported.
“It was really close,” Trump told the crowd at a Republican fundraising event. “We went in there. They were down. Good man, Rick Saccone. Good man. And didn’t quite make it. But lost, think of it, lost by about 300 votes out of all of those votes. So, it’s pretty incredible. But we can’t let it happen. We have to win. There’s nothing like winning. We have to win.”