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Trump concedes 18th District race before Saccone does

Wesley Venteicher
ptrtrumpsaccone03031118jpg
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
President Trump speaks to the crowd gathered for a rally for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone at Pittsburgh International Airport on March 10, 2018.

Republican Rick Saccone hadn't yet conceded defeat in Western Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District special election race by the time President Trump did.

“Good man, Rick Saccone. Good man. And (he) didn't quite make it. But lost, think of it, lost by about 300 votes out of all those votes,” Trump said Tuesday at a GOP fundraising event in Washington, D.C., CNN reported .

Unofficial tallies showed Saccone, who had not returned messages at the time of this writing, was trailing Democrat Conor Lamb by about 700 votes. Results have yet to be certified by election officials in the district's Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties.

(Update: Saccone officially conceded Wednesday night with a 6:30 p.m. phone call to Lamb, Saccone campaign spokesman Bob Branstetter told the Tribune-Review.)

Trump spoke about the special election race and his affinity for Western Pennsylvania at the National Republican Congressional Committee's annual March dinner.

The NRCC was the biggest outside spender in the special election race, shelling out more than $3 million on political ads attacking Lamb and supporting Saccone. The group raised $32 million at Tuesday's dinner, according to CBS News .

Despite Saccone's apparent defeat, Trump told those attending the NRCC dinner that the crowd attending a rally he headlined at Pittsburgh International Airport two days before the special election was an “energized group.”

“That crowd was — they were going. They really — they were happy. They were thrilled. I wish I was running. Man. That was some energetic group,” Trump said, according to the CNN report.

National political analysts had framed the March 13 special election in a district that favored Trump over Hillary Clinton by 19 percentage points in 2016 as a referendum on the president. Lamb's victory has energized Democrats , while Republican leaders have dismissed it as a fluke .

The NRCC employed a tactic here that it used in other special elections by trying to tie Lamb to Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi. Lamb said early in the campaign that he wouldn't support her re-election as Democratic leader if he were elected.

The NRCC is now threatening to file a lawsuit over the election, alleging “irregularities” such as glitches in electronic voting machines and problems with voters finding polling places. Elections officials have disputed the claims.

The NRCC group has raised $95 million in the 2018 campaign cycle in an effort to protect the Republican majority in the House in the upcoming midterm elections.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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