PA-18, the day after: Great moments in recriminations, excuse-making, and bad faith

Conor Lamb’s victory is either the result of “irregularities,” voter fraud, or the Democrat really being a Republican, leading GOP voices say

Conor Lamb has won the Pennsylvania 18th District special election. Sure, the result isn’t certified yet, and opponent Rick Saccone has yet to concede, but yes, it’s over. The New York Times declared Lamb the winner Wednesday night, calling the Democrat’s lead insurmountable.

Since this win came in a district that leans Republican by double digits, and which Donald Trump carried by a 19-point margin in 2016, this result has led to some recriminations on the Republican side. As well as some pretty laughable assertions about it. Let’s go through them.

Spin #1: “It’s a Democrat District!” This one was put out there before the race was even over, by Pennsylvania GOP chairman Val DiGiorgio. It it wasn’t a mere misstatement: “You have to remember, this is a Democrat district, notwithstanding the fact that the president won this by 20 points,” the chairman said. That sort of made it NOT a “Democrat District,” as did the Republican Congressman who represented it for more than a decade.

Spin #2: “Conor Lamb is actually a Republican!” This has been a favored spin in the first day after the race, with GOPers pointing out that Lamb is ex-military and an ex-prosecutor who’s not huge on gun control and refused to endorse Nancy Pelosi for House speaker. Lamb even had some Republicans swooning, with Laura Ingraham calling him a “young Tom Cotton,” and Bill Kristol opining that Lamb’s “natural home” was in “a sane GOP.”

This has a little bit of truth to it — except that Lamb did come out in favor of background checks and was elected with enthusiastic support of unions, not generally a Republican constituency. And besides, the GOP enthusiasm for Lamb is a relatively new phenomenon, as the party spent the campaign depicting him as a leftist radical who, counterfactually, LOVES Nancy Pelosi.

Paul Ryan described Lamb Wednesday as an “anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative,” the day after a campaign in which Ryan’s own Super PAC spent millions trying to tar Lamb as a pro-Pelosi liberal. It’s a wonder that strategy didn’t work.

Meanwhile, on CNN on election night, one commentator said of Lamb that he isn’t exactly a “social justice warrior” — a statement that came about five minutes after Lamb had literally used the phrase “social justice” in his victory speech.

Spin #3: “Lamb is like Trump!” A key tenet of Trumpism is that Donald Trump can never fail, he can only be failed. And that was the case in the president’s first comments after the election result, when he reportedly told his audience at a fundraiser that “we lifted [Saccone] 7 points up” by visiting for a last-minute rally.

Also, in Trump World, Lamb approached the race with “Oh, I’m like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything!” This was not true, and Lamb certainly didn’t support the Trump tax cut, and certainly never compared himself to Donald Trump. The two men’s campaign styles and temperaments couldn’t be more different.

Of course, there’s a good chance Trump will have launched a tweetstorm throwing Rick Saccone under the bus by the time you read this.

Spin #4: “Irregularities!” This one was perhaps inevitable. Like every other election in Pennsylvania, there were Election Day whispers about voting irregularities, none of which ever end up checking out. This time, the NRCC has alleged “irregularities” — and you’re not going to believe this, but they’re all in Allegheny County, the one part of the district that Lamb carried. The dispute seems to be about which lawyers were allowed in the room at which time during the absentee ballot count. There’s little evidence to suggest that such irregularities, even if they happened, would have affected the outcome of the race.

Of course the “voter fraud” conspiracies have already begun as well.

Clearly, Republicans are willing to believe anything but the simple truth: Lamb won because he was a better candidate, and because voters liked his ideas better than Saccone’s and Trump’s.

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