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Coverage of Pennsylvania Special Election. Aired 12m-1a ET

Aired March 14, 2018 - 00:00   ET


DANA BASH, CNN: -- are going to be incredibly nervous across the country.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN: And our coverage is going to continue with Don Lemon and CNN Tonight in New York.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you very much Jake and Dana. I appreciate that. Much more on our election night coverage right here on CNN. The breaking new, a nail biter night of high drama in Pennsylvania playing out right now, it's not over yet.

Now, it's all going to come down to the absentee ballots which are being counted and reported and we're going to do it live on CNN, they're being counted and reported now. This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon.

This election was not even supposed to be close. It should have been a slam dunk for republicans, instead tonight, if you care about politics in this country you are hanging on this race because of what it could mean for the fall mid-terms. What will play out in the mid- terms?

Pennsylvania's 18th district went for Trump by 20 points. Can you believe it's this close now, by 20 points? But tonight's race between the Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone is about as close as it can be.

We want to get straight to CNN's John King. He has been posted at the magic wall all evening. He has all the information for us. Gary Tuckman as well, at the country election headquarters in Alleghany County.

Good evening to both of you or good morning depending on where you are in the country. John, you first. Incredibly tight race. Too close to call, break down the numbers for us. What's outstanding?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Incredibly tight Don. There's a little confusion about what's outstanding, but let's go through where we are. By our count as we speak, 579 vote lead for the Democrat Conor Lamb, nail biter to say the least, 49.8, 49.6, the question is, what's outstanding. I'm told that we believe that these are the final numbers in Westmoreland County including absentee ballots they counted tonight. We're going to double check that and triple check that, but that's

what we were told at the moment. If that's the case, and the Westmoreland County ballots are in, then we go over here to Washington County, a republican county, that Rick Saccone won with 53 percent of the vote.

Outstanding there, 1,195 absentee ballots here, 203 absentee ballots here, the question is, can Rick Saccone -- sorry Don, let me bring that back up for you full size. Can Rick Saccone win those absentee ballots by enough of a margin to overcome that? It would take a mathematical miracle, 60 percent plus, even greater than that I believe.

So, at the moment the democrats are confident Conor Lamb can hold onto this win. Remember, Donald Trump won this district 16 months ago by 20 points. The democrat is at least even tonight ahead by 579 votes, republicans say, lets count all of these then they'll want to double check and triple check the math in the morning, but as of now, because of this, because of the big advantage in this slice, it's not all of Alleghany County, just the southern part of the county is in the district.

Conor Lamb ran 57 percent here, you see the margin, 58, 655, 43, the 15,000 vote margin plus in Alleghany County at the moment giving Conor Lamb a very narrow lead, 579 votes, absentees to be counted here.

And here, the Saccone campaign says, we're still in this. We'll continue the fight. The democrats think when they finish this count that might shrink a bit, but they're going to pull of, Don, what would be the first, big, stunning upset physiologically momentum builder of 2018. But, let's wait for the final math, it could be the morning.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. Rick Saccone came out moments ago and said, it is -- it's not over yet. Are there enough outstanding ballots that he could win at this point? That he could pull of a victory, John?

KING: The answer is yes, Don, but the question is the math. Again, he's going to have to win a giant percentage. I haven't done the final math because we're triple checking in here, but when Westmoreland's absentee ballots were still out, he had to win 63 percent.

If he shrunk the lead a little bit, then you're down to these two counties left, again, at least 60 percent, probably higher than that number. He only won 53 percent today in the live vote. Can he so overperform among absentees? It's possible, it generally doesn't happen.

Same down here, he won 58 percent, a small number of the votes, only 203 down here. Can he get significantly higher percentage than he did in the live ballot? It's mathematically possible.

People who track elections say, these things tend to run about the same, maybe give or take a few points, give or take 5 or 10 points, that's unlikely. But, when the margins 579 if you're the candidate on the low end right now, you're going to wait until they count every last one.

LEMON: Absolutely.

KING: And like I said, then you're going to send your lawyers back and your team back to triple and quadruple check in those other counties.

LEMON: Great reporting. That's why we have here John King. John, you're the best. Thank you so much. It's going to be -- it's been a long night, it's going to be a long day for you tomorrow as well. Let's bring in now, CNN's Senior Political Analyst, Mr. Mark Preston, our political commentators Bakari Sellers, Amanda Carpenter and Scott Jennings.

Mark, what happens now? The question is, so he said it's about the math. So, can Conor Lamb go to bed the winner and wake up a looser possibly?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, no question about it. Because we have to see, obviously, we have to see what the count is and figure out what the percentage that's going to come out of it.

Right now it looks like he's probably going to win, but who knows. I mean, we thought Donald Trump wouldn't be in the White House today and guess what, Donald Trump is in the White House today.

What I do think is interesting and what I think is more important is how this is going to be spun tomorrow by the democrats and the republicans. Now, when you go back to the beginning, republicans, as you said, this should have been an easy win for them. But the tide turned and everyone was looking at this race and they thought the democrats would have an easy win because they have such a great candidate and it really is a great candidate.

Republicans didn't have a great candidate. I think that if republicans do lose, Don, that I don't think it's a ten alarm fire right now for the Republican Party. I think they're going to look at this and say OK we need to make sure that our candidates are better prepared and that they know how to deliver the message in places where Trump is wanted and needed.

LEMON: It is a multi alarm fire though.

PRESTON: Well, my gut -

LEMON: Not 10.

PRESTON: ... we knew -

LEMON: It is a multi alarm.

PRESTON: Yes, absolutely. We knew going into tonight though that republicans were - had their backs against the wall and there was a good chance they were going to lose the House of Representatives. But I don't think that things have changed from last night to where we stand tonight. CARPENTER: OK. There's one thing that questioned walking into this

race even though Trump went all in, did the rally, republican committees spent a ton of money, all these consultants were throwing this guy under the bus as hard as they could going into the race. And so, clearly their projections were and I sort of wonder if he does lose this race were these republicans trashing his prospects in the run up to the vote, that could be the difference.

LEMON: Yes. And he's got to win 70 percent of the 1,400 outstanding votes.

JENNINGS: Yes, unlikely. Mathematically possible but unlikely. I think about this race in the context of the great Winston Churchill movie that just came out and I think about Churchill saying at one point in the movie when will the lesson be learned. And, in this case candidate quality matters.

At the local level here there were three people looking at this race and the district committee that chose the candidate chose the one - the third guy that everybody wanted. There were two other candidates both of who probably win this race tonight. That's number one.

Number two, democrats did something here that was smart. They didn't go with the ultra liberal candidate. They went with a moderate republican like type candidate who matched the district, who ran away from Pelosi, who had to sound not like anything you hear out of the democrats in Washington to win.

So, a couple of lessons here. Yes, if you have a suburb in your district and you're republican running for Congress, watch out. There's no way to mayonnaise on that crap sandwich but candidate quality matters and the democrats got it right and republicans got it wrong.

LEMON: He's not wrong about that. I mean, they were - they - politically there was not much difference between. There is not much difference between -

SELLERS: Look, I just appreciate all three of my colleagues tonight for just painting this picture that is as rosy as possible for the Republican Party. The fact is it's amazing how Saccone all of a sudden isn't a great candidate. I mean relatively speaking, he may not be a great candidate to compare it to some others but compare it to a Todd Akin or compared to a Roy Moore, he is a legitimate candidate.

He actually served in our Armed Forces, he actually was an elected official prior to this. It's not as if he ran against just -

PRESTON: This doesn't make you a good candidate.

JENNINGS: Congratulations on construction the lowest bar.

SELLERS: I hear you. I hear you but regardless at the end of the night republicans may not be a 10 alarm fire, I hope that they walk out of this with some level of confidence. They should not. There are 119 districts, 119 districts that are held by republicans today that are closer than the 20 point margin by which Donald Trump won this district.

119, that means all 119 need to understand that tomorrow somebody can file against them and they can be beaten. Democrats do have to learn a message from this race and that is my fear. That's always my fear with democrats is that we screw the preverbal pooch. But we have to realize is a few things.

We can't forget the lessons of Alabama which is that African American women, we have them to give them a full throated reason and people of color to come out and vote. We also, and we're not a party of or but and we have to focus on working class voters as Conor Lamb is showing us today.

And the last things is one of the best footnotes about this race and I'm not sure I've heard it mentioned at all tonight on CNN. It may have been but I'm not sure I've heard it, is that there are only six millennials elected to the United States Congress. Only six and Conor Lamb will add to that number or he'll be number six.

LEMON: Are you trying to make his point because when he said he ran away from Nancy Pelosi, he's not running as a traditional democrat -

SELLERS: And, that's fine.

LEMON: All the older people in Washington, he's running a different race -

SELLERS: I have beat this drum - this proverbial drum for the last year. The fact is the Democratic Party and our leadership and our proverbial leadership, they're all old. I mean I don't make any bones about that. Look, you want to talk about Hillary Clinton, you want to talk about Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, the list goes on and on and on.

Chuck Schumer, the list goes on and on and on. Our party leadership has to get younger. We have to become more versatile and we have to have a message that resonates across all boards. And Conor Lamb - just one more point real quick, we have to be a party of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Conor Lamb and Joe Manchin. Like, I want everybody under the tent.

PRESTON: So, and that's - let me pick that up there because I think that's incredibly important, not only to the Democratic Party but for the Republican Party, as well, is that what we've seen tonight regardless of who wins is that you can't go into a district and just because somebody is backed by the progressive wing of their party, if you're a democrat think that they're going to win that seat.

You have to pick people who are going to fit the mold of the district and you know what if the Democratic Party is going to the big tent party like the Republican Party talks all the time then they're going to have to accept the likes of Conor Lamb into their party.

LEMON: I was talking to Mark McCann (ph) I think it was last night and he said well it just proves that all politics is local and not substantial (ph) but I don't agree with that at all. Sorry, Mark. I don't agree with that. I think all politics local and this shows you that it's local. You have to put a candidate in that fits the place you're running.


LEMON: But look at - you can't - Scott, he won. Donald Trump won this district by 20 points. Even if Conor Lamb loses I still think it's a win for the - for democrats at least with momentum and republicans should be concerned about it.

JENNINGS: The narrative out of tonight, Saccone would have had to have won by six or seven points plus with a narrative to shift towards the republicans. Narrowing a district like this is a terrible narrative for the Republican Party and there's no question about it. There's no way to run away from it.

But right now is the wake up call for every republican. As Bakari (ph) said there's a lot of republicans out there in districts that look a lot like this, some suburbs, some rural. Maybe they haven't had a tough race. Remember a lot of republican House members got elected in 2010, 2012 they've never faced a tough reelect. Maybe no reelect at all.

You're going to have one this year. This - if there's a silver lining, wake up call do not take your race for granted even if you've always been able to do that because the environment won't allow it.

SELLERS: And you cannot look - one of the things that's amazing about being the party in control is that we see these dips but you can always go to the bully pulpit with is 1600 Pennsylvania. But what we've seen is that you had Donald Trump fly in. You can Ivanka Trump fly in. You had Mike Pence fly in. You even had Don, Jr. campaign there smashing a bowl of ice cream in a hairnet, right. Everybody -

CARPENTER: Keep talking to chocolate bunnies (ph).

SELLERS: Everybody came down and I think one of the messages that comes away from this and we talked a little bit about it offset is that there is level of toxicity with this White House.

CARPENTER: Yes, and this -

SELLERS: And there is a level of toxicity amongst suburban, white voters.

CARPENTER: Absolutely. And this is a big question. In a district that was 20 points for Trump, when Trump devotes so many resources to it if the race is still close republicans across the board have to ask themselves going into 2018 and 2020 how close will you get to Trump.

Trump probably needs to win this district more than the republican candidate does so that he can be welcome when he wants to go campaign himself in these republican areas. LEMON: Let me ask you this, Amanda, what happens tomorrow when House republicans go to work and they're up for reelection in eight months? Do they say maybe it's time to retire?

CARPENTER: Yes, this is so close I think you're going to see retirements either way.

LEMON: More.

CARPENTER: I think right now you're up to 38. Even distinguished members like Trey Gowdy who had a prominent position doing things he liked that a lot of republicans in the leadership position do need to work closely with the White House, those are the ones who are leaving. And so, you know.

LEMON: What do you think, Steve?

JENNINGS: Yes, I mean, I think that if you're getting at the end of your career and you don't want to deal with it and fool with a rough environment you're going to see some retirements. Let's not forget though here, Trump aside, history's already moving against the republicans. I think it's only been two midterms since the Civil War when the party in power didn't lose seats.

And so, the Republicans go into this historically in a generic environment, historically speaking they should lose. They should lose seats. The question is can the democrats turn that into something more than it should otherwise be and that's the questions we're seeing answered by races like this that the democrats want to try to make it bigger than maybe it ought to be.

LEMON: All right. Stick around, everyone. When we come back much more on this razor tight congressional race in Pennsylvania and what it means for a Republican Party increasingly nervous about the midterms. We'll be right back.



DON LEMON: So here's our breaking news all eyes on Pennsylvania's special congressional race tonight where it's all coming down to the absentee ballots. Let's go to CNN's John King, John is at the Magic Wall. John, there are just under 14 hundred absentee ballots outstanding in these counties. How likely is it that Saccone will get enough of these votes to make up a difference?

JOHN KING: Mathematically possible Don but unlikely and let's do the math first. Let's start with where we are. 579 vote lead at the moment for Connor Lamb, you see it right up there. Now we're going to have to go a little old school here, from the best of our information 1,398 absentee ballots still to be counted. Most of then from Washington County, 200 from Greene County, the count here is ongoing, we don't expect these until the morning. So just again I'm going to stop right there for a minute, in Washington County Rick Saccone got 53 percent of the vote tonight. In Greene County Rick Saccone got 58 percent if you round it up for the vote tonight. He should be optimistic, these are places he ran strong, almost 1,400 ballots left, 579 vote lead. Here's the problem, if Rick Saccone got 70 percent, way over performed, way over performed, if he got 70 percent of those ballots tonight, in those absentee ballots, he would come up with in the ball park of - that's 979, that's 70 percent.

Connor Lamb would get 419, that's 70 percent and 30 percent. So what's the difference there? That would mean a net gain at 70 percent of the absentee ballots left that would be a net gain for Rick Saccone of 560 which would leave him 19 votes short, if he got 70 percent. Again that would be over performing and over performing. So is it mathematically possible? Yes, would that count have to defy everything that happened at the ballot box today by a significant margin? Yes so mathematically possible at 70 percent thought. Even if Rick Saccone wins 7 out of 10 of those remaining absentee ballots he will fall short. So your expectation is he will make up the lead, can he get that, I wouldn't bet on it.

LEMON: Wow John King. John thank you very much we'll check back when we get more information. I want to go to CNN's Jason Carroll. He's a Connor Lambs headquarters. Jason what happening? Are we expecting him to speak anytime soon?

JASON CARROLL: Well we've just gotten word from a campaign source that Connor Lamb is expected to have just a few minutes, and in fact on just a few minutes ago we saw over there in the corner, we saw Connor Lamb's brother peak his head out there just for a short moment before he headed back in but Connor Lamb is expected to address the crowd in just a few minutes from now. Just a short while ago was senior campaign advisor Rich Fitzgerald took to the stage and thanked all of those who came out to support the campaign.


He talked about the grass roots nature of the campaign and I can tell you Don, as I hear chants throughout the room, of Conor, Conor, all throughout this night, even in the very beginning when the numbers were far more favorable to Conor Lamb, there was a sense of optimism among many people here throughout the night.

Even as the numbers became tighter and tighter and it's become a real nail biter, behind the scenes there's still this feeling of confidence. The feeling that the work that they've done to reach out to the union members throughout the district has really paid off.

So once again, just a few moments from now, we're expecting Conor Lamb to take the stage, just a short while ago his campaign advisor came out and told the crowd to hang on, they know that they've been waiting for a very, very long time, but told the crowd to hang on. That Conor Lamb is on his way.

LEMON: Jason Carroll, we're glad they're watching. We can see they're on a delay and when they see themselves they start screaming. So, they're watching CNN and they're ready. Thank you very much Jason Carroll. I want to bring in now CNN's Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash and Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod. Good evening or good morning to both of you. Dana ...

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Is there really a difference now?

LEMON: It's not. It's all the same. I mean, this really is a nail biter. And this is a major test for this President going into the mid-terms. What's your takeaway here?

BASH: Yes, I mean it's a test I think not much for the President, but it is a test on both sides. Number one, for democrats, whether they can harness the resistance, the energy that is very real and very fervent across the country and at least now the answer -- no matter how this turns out, the answer is yes. Because this is a district that Donald Trump won by 20 points, it's a district that has not gone into the D, the dem column, since 2002. So, regardless of how this turns out, it is a yes.

Republicans I talked to say, again, regardless of how this turns out, they're hoping it is a wake-up call to their party, to their candidates, to get focused and to get with it. Yet, the issues though Don, or maybe the question is, whether or not the wake-up call for some of the republican candidates is going to be, I'm out of here.

That they're going to decide they're going to retire rather than run in a district, many of which have a margin that is much more favorable to them, but if they're looking at what's going on now, if they -- if Conor Lamb can win or the republican can't win or at least comes close in a district like Pennsylvania 18, then they're in big trouble.

LEMON: To get focused, to get with it David, do you agree with Dana's analysis on what?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well look, I agree with Dana's analysis, but I also know having been on the wrong side of a wave once that there's only so much you can do. If there is a national dynamic and there seems to be.

Remember, this race has to be put in the context of every election that's taken place since Donald Trump became President and what we've seen is a consistent pattern of democrats outperforming what should be their partisan performance in districts.

You've seen 37 state legislative seats that have flipped from republican to democrat and even in seats where republicans won, they didn't win by the margins that the president won by and that a typical republican could win by. So, there's something going on out there that is bigger than just this race and that's what would concern me if I were republicans.

Also, this suburban deal is real. You look at Alleghany County or the suburban portion of Alleghany County in this district, Donald Trump carried it by four points against Hillary Clinton. Conor Lamb won in a landslide tonight with 57 percent of the vote. A lot of these suburban areas are going to be battle grounds in this upcoming election.

So, there are a lot of things that I think would trouble me if I were a republican thinking about the fall, tonight.

LEMON: All right. David, Dana, I want you to stick around because much more when we come back on our breaking news. A nail biter congressional race in Pennsylvania. This whole thing could come down to the absentee ballots. It will.



LEMON: Here's breaking news right now, the Special Congressional election in Pennsylvania that's got everybody on the edge of their seats tonight. The Democrat Conor Lamb with a slim lead over the Republican Rick Saccone.

Back with me, Dana Bash and David Axelrod. David, Republicans at the White House are saying they are pleased with the narrow margin tonight. The GOP Official told our Jeff Zeleny, this isn't a blowout. For now, we'll happily take it.

With all the resources that were poured into this -- there needs to - to what - what - there is to be pleased about. I'm trying to get the quote right. Sorry. And it's late.


LEMON: So why are they happy about this?

AXELROD: Well, I don't think they're happy about it. I think that they're trying to Make the most of a bad situation. They take some solace in the fact

that there were some polls that showed a wider margin than we saw tonight for Lamb and the President came there.

They'll claim credit for that, and there probably was a little bit of enthusiasm generated by the president's visit. I don't know that -- when you net (ph) it out, what the President being in the White House means for Republicans versus his ability to get a few points for candidates. I'm not sure the tradeoff is good for Republicans.

Look, the interesting thing that happened to -- in this race is that Conor Lamb rooted himself in the district, reflected the district very, very well, and the republicans tried to nationalize this race. And they spent $10 million hitting Lamb with negative ads, trying to tie him to Nancy Pelosi, trying to tie him to higher taxes, trying to tie him to weak on crime; all of these familiar themes.

It didn't work. And they're - all that money and all those attacks didn't work. And that's something that they're going to have to contemplate.

Democrats, on the other hand, ought to take some lessons from this because Lamb did reflect his district, and he was allowed by the party to do that.

[00:30:00] And I think that is, in a big, diverse country, you have to do that to be a winning party -

BASH: Yes, I mean -

AXELROD: - and hopefully they'll derive from lessons from that.

LEMON: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: Yes. No, I totally agree David, and Tom Perez, the Democratic party Chairman, was on with us earlier this evening or maybe last evening depending on how we calculate the time right now, and he was very open about the notion of Conor Lamb looking to camera as he did in the ad that he put out saying that he is not going to support Nancy Pelosi, that he said every candidate on our side is going to run the kind of race that they feel that they need to. And plus 20 district, plus Trump - plus 20 meaning for Trump, that is the kind of race that the Democrat there felt that he had to run.

LEMON: So Dana, let me ask you this having -

BASH: Yes.

LEMON: - just having said what you said about Conor Lamb looking straight to camera saying, "I'm not going to support Nancy Pelosi." And David just said, "well, maybe Donald Trump did drum up some enthusiasm by feriving (ph) it." But how can you say that it actually helped this candidate when Donald Trump won by 20 points, and yet and still we're at this - maybe he actually hurt them by going there? Maybe he did need to go there?

BASH: Well look, we're going to have to really dissect these numbers once we get a better sense of what they are, but I think just the fact that we are waiting for the absentee ballots, which, by the way, our David Chalion reminded me before we came on, had to be in by Friday and Friday was just as the president was signing his tariff policy, which he was hoping was going to help with these exact kind of voters, union voters and so forth, and it was before the president actually went to the district to campaign there. The fact that we're waiting for the absentee ballots it means that the sort of live vote, the vote that happened today was tighter than both sides expected.

That is why Republicans feel that - and particularly Trump Republicans that I've talked to and I'm sure you have as well, heard from them saying that they believe that the president's visit helped. But at the end of the day, the president helping a candidate to maybe, maybe get over a finish line where he, the president, won by 20 points and it hasn't been in Democratic hands for 14 years isn't a whole lot to crow about, and that's why, candidly, most Republicans are saying, "not matter what happens at the end of the day, whether it goes to the Democratic side or not, it is a canary in the coal mine for Republicans."

LEMON: So David, there are many who say that don't over think this. Don't overplay this as it relates to the midterms. You think this a sign of things to come? AXELROD: Yes, I really do. I don't - I think it is true that one should not - every race has it's own characteristics and one shouldn't overplay any one race. But as I say when you put it in the context of what we've seen over the past year and all the elections that have been held, there is a consistent pattern. And I remember in 2010 when Scott Brown won the Senate seat that Ted Kennedy had held after Kennedy had died, and we tried to spin it as our candidate wasn't particularly good, this was a special circumstance, but we knew that it meant something, and this means something as well.

LEMON: Yes, all right. Thank you very much. When we come back, much more on tonight's incredibly tight congressional race in Pennsylvania, Democrat Conor Lamb with a slim lead in a race that should have been a slam dunk for the GOP. We're going to be live at Lamb's headquarters. That's next.



DON LEMON: Here's our breaking news. Democrat Connor Lamb with a slim lead in Pennsylvania special congressional race in a district President Trump won by about 20 points in 2016. I want to bring in now senior contributor Salena Zito. Connor Lamb's headquarters she has been talking us through this. You live in Pennsylvania 18, Salena good morning to you, this us your back yard. Give us what you think ...


LEMON: ... your perspective of what happened on the ground tonight in this race.

ZITO: Well I think what's sort of some of the bigger lessons about this race are that the democrats have found a way to have a successful campaign with a moderate democrat who is able to have a good message, able to talk about economic populism and - avoid talking about Trump in a negative way. It worked very well in this district and I think it can be a model for other districts with similar sort of swing electorates. I think the republican lesson is that they need a better message. They need one that's more aspirational, that reminds voters that they have their back and talks about the things that they accomplish.

There was none of that. I live in a district, I saw the ads, they were all very dark and sort of negative and they didn't tell a story about what they've accomplished. I don't think that the Republican Party gets who they are yet. I don't think that they understand that they have a more populous coalition.

LEMON: You say the deciding swing voter and - swing vote in this race is a union voter. Explain that to us.

ZITO: Yes. So in - the union vote in this district is very high. It's a union family vote, so it's a collective vote. People all vote the same way in their families and their communities and they are very, still very strong for Donald Trump but there problem unique to this district is that the republican candidate Rick Saccone is a right to work - that's where he falls in his policies. And unions view that as not having their back. So you see the voters swinging away from Saccone and republicans and towards Lamb.


And it's a very local race. Despite the national attention, they have - the candidates have kept it localized and that's sort of hurt Saccone because he's not on the same page as Trump is when it comes to the union issues.

LEMON: The people you talk to who backed the Democratic Conor Lamb also oted for President Trump in 2016. Are they still behind President Trump?

ZITO: Yes, absolutely. They just look at this as continuing that sort of populous trend of going with the person that they feel is more aspirational and it has their back more than someone who is out of touch with their major concerns.

LEMON: Salena, you certainly had a read on this race and we appreciate your perspective. Thank you very much for joining, and we're waiting for more votes to be counted and reported tonight. Still about 1,400 outstanding votes left in Washington and Greene Counties. As we have been told here, we're going to get the results from Washington County at some point tonight. Let's get back with the panel now for some discussion, Mark Preston, Bakari Sellers, Amanda Carpenter, and Scott Jennings. So the deciding voter, the swing voter, the union vote she said there.



PRESTON: Yes, so look, union voters are predominately, primarily in the Deomocratic constituency. However, in some places like Pennsylvania, we have seen them peel off. We have to go back to 2008. Remember, this was the place that Barack Obama described that people we're clinging to their guns and religion back in 2008. That still sits in the bottom pit of many people's stomachs. So they don't look at the Democratic party necessarily as supporting them. In this case, though I do think that's really interesting about the right to work aspect.

LEMON: Mark, let's standby. Conor Lamb coming to the podium down in Pennsylvania now. There you see him there. People are cheering (our four season) Cannonsburg. Rick Saccone already came out and said it's got a - there's a long way to go. He was still very hopeful. Conor Lamb with a slim lead now in this Special Election here in Pennsylvania's 18th. We're waiting more to see what he has to say, if he's going to declare himself the winner. I'd say we have to sit by and wait, but he certainly should feel good about what he's accomplished in the district that the current president, a Republican won by 20 points, and here he is with a slim lead in a race that he could very well win by morning once the election officials there clarifies and declares who the winner is. Let's listen to Conor Lamb right now.

CONOR LAMB: Well, it took a little longer than we thought, but we did it. You did it. You did it. You did it. I see so many great friends out here. Four months ago right after we won the Democratic nomination, before we ever even had a chance to open an office, the grassroots leaders that are in this room tonight came to us and they said, "print us something. Print anything so we can get out there and start canvassing." They said, "get going," they said, "or we're going without you." Well, we went together, and I can't thank you enough. We followed what I learned in the Marines, leave no one behind. We went everywhere, we talked to everyone, we invited everyone in, and we found that there was public support for programs like social security and medicare that's nearly universal because these programs are universal. They are Americas way of saying, "we are all in this together." Our issue in this campaign in common ground.


We fought to find common ground and we found it, almost everywhere. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, each of us, Americans. I've heard it - I've heard it over and over.


LAMB: I've heard it over and over, Conor.


LAMB: I've heard it, Conor, the job you're running for is the House of Representatives. So if you get down there, do the job. Do the job. OK, I will. Mission accepted. People are so tired of the shouting, on TV and in our politics.


LAMB: It is -- it's amazing what happens when you're in a room with real people who have real aspirations, and real troubles. There's lots of ideas. There's no angry shouting. Our job in Congress is to attack the problems, not each other.

People want to be heard. They want to talk about serious things and honest solutions. Not be drowned out by dark money, distorting the truth, and telling lies to our children. I'm proud that you helped me refuse corporate PAC money.

You helped us raise millions in small contributions. Eighty-six thousand donations; almost all of them small, every one of them in the open, just like our campaign. We were able to campaign the way American Democracy is supposed to be.

It's supposed to be for you, not just on TV, but in your town halls, at legion posts, in small auditoriums, on your streets, at your door. And side by side with us, at each step of the way, were the men and women of organized labor.

Organized labor built Western Pennsylvania. Let me tell you something. Tonight, they have reasserted their right to have a major part in our future. These unions have fought for decades for wages, benefits, working conditions, basic dignity, and social justice.

Thank you. Thank you. You have brought me into your ranks to fight with you.

And let me tell you something else. I am proud to be right there with you. Thank you.

Let me finish with this. I'm a Pennsylvania Democrat. A proud Western Pennsylvania Democrat. This is the party of my grandfather.


He believed in FDR, who taught us all. He taught us all that people have a right to know that their government walks on their side of the street.


What that means is, I'll work on the problems our people face. Secure their jobs and pensions, protect their family and I will work with anyone to do that.


We're serious people and tonight we celebrate regaining our voice and our vote in the great business of governing this country we love. Thank you.


LEMON: Oh, here we go. That's Conor Lamb there giving a victory speech. And I said, is he going to declare victory or is he going to wait for election officials? What did you think Amanda?

CARPENTER: A bold more. Just go out and get ahead of anyone else. Yes, but it's just funny. If you were a republican looking at, this Bakari's is going to blow his mind. Donald Trump can't save you, even in a plus 20 district, Donald Trump can't save you. And so, Congressman-elect Lamb I guess.

LEMON: Yes. Before we got him, they announced him as Congressman- elect Lamb.

SELLERS: Can I just say for -- I'm over here with all these republican.

PRESTON: Just go, just go.

CARPENTER: I know. I ...

SELLER: Let me bask in this glory.

PRESTON: Let us say this, CNN is not calling the race.

LEMON: Right.

PRESTON: We're absolutely not calling the race. We're going to wait to see what happens in the morning.

LEMON: Or whenever election officials call it. PRESTON: Or whenever election officials call of course. What we're

seeing here right now is play by Conor Lamb in the National Democratic party, to go in and just say we want, let's end it right now and let's just try to defeat any effort to try to contest the significance.

LEMON: All right democrat. We'll be right back.



LEMON: Our breaking news tonight, Democrat Conor Lamb declares victory in Pennsylvania special congressional race. A race that's too close to call until all the votes are counted. We expect to get results from Washington County's absentee ballots sometime tonight. So, let's bring in now, CNN Political Commentators Van Jones and Steve Cortes. We have not - it has not been officially called.

CNN has not declared it but Conor Lamb, Van, saying hey listen. I won, where does the momentum stand at this point in the midterms?

JONES: Well, look, I mean, he's smart to go ahead and try and stake that claim and get that physiological victory while everybody's watching, the whole world is watching but, you know, we're going to wait to call it. I will say this, though, the republican party, the people who have been trying to figure out every way in the world to defend Donald Trump and to pretend that he's doing a great job, that rumbling sound you hear is not a train passing by.

It is not a jet overhead. It is not a thunderstorm on the horizon. That is the anti-Trump resistance coming down out of the mountains to any voting booth it can find, it grabs, it shakes upside down, it turns it around because people are tired. This was - yes, there's a big part of this that was local.

But there's an energy here. You had so many women on the ground who have never been involved before who got involved. You have labor - the labor movement feeling its back up against the wall. They got a big Supreme Court case coming down. They're trying to assert (ph) themselves.

All the backdrop that Trump has created by basically in some ways embarrassing some republicans and outraging a lot of democrats gives a lift to all the local effort and it is just getting started.

LEMON: Here in New York it could be the D Train which goes right by the building.

JONES: That's not what it is.

LEMON: Well, I was giving you democrat. D Train. Come on. Come on. JONES: Oh, OK. I got you.

LEMON: So, listen, Steve, how is this a result, how is this not a disaster for the GOP?

CORTES: Well, look, I don't think it's a disaster. I think it's a bad night. I'm going to be very honest here. I do think it's a bad night for the GOP but I think it's also a good night for Conor Lamb and because of the kind of race he ran and because of the kind of candidate he is he mentioned something about the Democratic Party of his grandparents.

I thought that was very telling because it reminded me a lot of my maternal grandmother, Irish Catholic democrat who worshiped FDR and JFK. The party of her day has largely disappeared today. Now, Conor Lamb seems to want to resurrect that very smartly so. I think he's the kind of candidate that she could vote for.

Somebody who's modern but here's the problem the democrats are going to face, they don't have very many Conor Lamb's and they have a whole lot of Nancy Pelosi's and Elizabeth Warren's. They have a lot of old, tired, hard left social justice warrior types so I think it's going to be hard to replicate the success that they see in Pennsylvania '18 in other races.

LEMON: He did say, "I'm a western Pennsylvania democrat" which, you know, and he says I'm also - when he said unions built western Pennsylvania. So, yes, point taken. Listen, gentlemen. Thank you very much. I want you to stick around for me. When we come back much more on the special congressional race in Pennsylvania. Democrat Conor Lamb declaring victory but until every vote is counted this race is too close to call.