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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  March 13, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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back the house. but for republicans, this is a race trump plus 20 district where you think they would be able to win here without spinning too much of their wheels. but they spent more than $10 million here. they dispatched the president, the vice president, even the president's son to try to hold on to this thing. watching this thing come down to the wire is going to be fascinating just as its own election in its own district. but also for its national implications. so i will see you again tomorrow. we're going stay with this pennsylvania coverage for the rest of the night tonight. it's now time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." good evening. >> i just had to put on my election night glasses. i realized when i saw you reading the numbers at the bottom of the screen, i'm going to be doing a lot of that and trying to figure out what the margin is between these two. this looks like a count every vote situation. >> we'll see as it comes in. when we were planning for our production lanning tonight, we'll probably have 10, 12, 15% of the vote in by the end of the
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9:00 hour. lawrence will really be doing the heavy lifting. probably brian doing the heavy lifting. we're down to 95% of the vote in already. and that is a very, very tight margin. obviously conor lamb was out by a big margin but now it's very, very tight. >> we'll see if they have to get to those absentee ballots. this is going to be really, really a squeaker all the way. >> i'm glad you got your glasses. >> thank you, rachel. >> thanks, lawrence. >> well, as you ski, we're watching this special election in pennsylvania tonight where democrat conor lamb and republican rick saccone are facing off. the race obviously is still close to call. 95% of the vote in, and still too close. lamb has 50% of the vote. saccone has 49% of the vote. it's going to change in another minute. conor lamb leads by just over at this moment a thousand votes. but that's been changing by the second. steve kornacki has been watching the returns covering this. he has been covering the race for weeks. he has been waiting for night.
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he has been waiting for this minute. steve, what's going to happen? >> well, the number right now, lawrence, 11,132. that's the difference right now separating conor lamb who is leading with all these votes and rick saccone who is trying to catch him. let me show you the lay of the land as we look for the final precincts. first, this big chunk of real estate here. take it off the board, green county. it's tiny in terms of the number of voter there's. 100% in. take that off the board. westmoreland came in late. but then it came in fast. so saccone, if you're watching the returns all night and saw that lopsided lamb lead early in the returns, that was deceptive because westmoreland always comes in late. it came in for saccone. almost all of that it seems is in right now. so really the action is we're look agent this gap of 1,132 votes the lead for lamb right now. it's right here in this part of the district. allegheny and washington. and you see from the color coding the difference between these two counties.
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allegheny county, you are talking about the pittsburgh suburbs. we've talked in the age of president trump about those college educated voters. a little more economically upscale, white collar professionals. more moderate maybe culturally. may be turned off a bit by trump's style. this is the part of the district where lamb needed to run up the score tonight. well said early on the question is how much. obviously he is right at the cusp of what he needs to do there. there are some precincts left in allegheny. probably going to be for conor lamb. that's probably going to boost him. though the question becomes this part, the red part, the other big outstanding county, washington county. republican bastion. again, we talked about that contrast. the white working class suburbanites up here in allegheny. you get more into what you would traditionally associate with this district. older, more blue collar, less economically upscale. that's what you start to talk about in washington county there are precinct there's as well. lawrence, that's what we're
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looking for. as soon as these numbers update, we'll start to see how it shakes out. but again, the question here is can lamb squeeze enough votes out of allegheny to offset what's left in washington, and probably a sliver or two. i've got to look closer, a sliver or two in westmoreland. can lamb hold off saccone in that part of the district. >> steve, this district is normally so hopeless for republicans that in the last election, the republican -- hopeless for democrats, the republican ran unopposed. before that, murphy ran unopposed. and the two years before that but the last time there was a candidate against the republican, tim murphy won by 28%. 2010, tim murphy won this district by 35%. donald trump, of course, won it by 20. mitt romney won it by 17. we're not supposed to be here tonight, steve, talking about a real competition in the a district like this. >>. >> right there. are two things we can say. first of all, the story of this
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district, it brings us tonight to put this in some kind of context. this is going way back, a generation or two. this was is not one of the dists we talked about in 2016 that just flipped because of trump. it was for trump by about 20. it was for romney by basically the same margin in 2012. the big turn happened about the turn of the century. it's really become increasingly republican since then. this would not be just a drop-off from trump's levels. this would be a drop-off if there republican levels in the 21st century. the other thing, as we wait for the final votes that we can say with certainty right now since basically almost all the votes are in is that this continues a trend and a pattern that we've been seeing in these special elections that goes all the way back to april of 2017 when we had the first congressional special election of the trump presidency. in that election, a wichita based district in kansas, it was trump plus 27 in 2016. they held the special election.
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the republicans won, but they won by 7. that's a swing you can see of 20 points. they went up to montana a couple months later. trump 21 became a six-point margin. the rock hill area, 19 went down to 3. georgia is one of the outliers here. it went from 1 to 4. that's one that republicans point to. again, you see the trend here. you saw it in alabama that was trump by 28 points. ended up going to for the democrats. so you see this swing. and again, here, this was trump by 20 points. whatever happens tonight, maybe it ends up being lamb by a point. maybe he ends up losing by a fraction of a point game. is democrats shaving off 20 points from that trump margin. we saw something like that here. we saw it here. we saw it here. we saw it here. we saw it in alabama. that starts to look like a trend. >> steve, we're going to widen out the discussion here with our panel. but please stay with us and feel free to shout in whenever there is something we need to know from these results.
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we're joined by cornell belcher, ron klain, former senior aide to president obama and kimberly adkins. and ron klain, i want to go to you first. you've been in the room with the democrats in the senate and in the congress after they've had a bad night at the polls where they have lost ground substantially or actually lost a seat. what is that discussion like tomorrow for the republicans? because no matter how this comes out, they've just lost a 20-point advantage in that district. >> that's right, lawrence. obviously it's better to win than lose. i hope conor lamb wins. this is a tied election in an overwhelmingly republican district. so what democrats will be talking about tomorrow is this. they need to win 27 house seats to take back the house. there are 112 congressional districts better for democrats than this district currently being held by republicans. 112 districts in republican
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hands that are more favorable to the democrats than this district. >> okay. i just want to stop there and double underline this point for the audience. here we have an election tonight that might be decided by one point or less. basically, the elimination of the republican advantage in this district in pennsylvania. and you're saying that the democrats look at the congressional map, and they see 110 districts where it would be even easier for them to win than in this district? >> that's right. based on the outcome of the 2016 election, prior congressional races. again, it is better to win. i hope conor lamb wins. all the democrats are rooting for conor lamb to win. but whatever happens with the final few voteses here, this has been a devastating setback for republican efforts to hold the house in 2018. a huge momentum boost for democratic efforts to take the house in 2018. >> cornell belcher, as a pollster, when you look at this, what's the lesson it teaches democrats? >> well, a couple of lessons.
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one democratic enthusiasm is important. but also, look, i was a pollster for howard dean in 2006 when we took back the house. and i got to tell you -- >> cornell, we're going to have to go to steve kornacki. he has more for us. go ahead. >> it's going to sound like small potatoes, lawrence. >> every potato counts tonight, steve. >> every potato is a big potato. i was telling you when we came on, the margin has gone up here every so slightly, but maybe ever so critically for conor lamb sitting here at 1,238. it was about 100 less when we came on. almost exactly 100 less. what happened was we said he is going to get a little bit more in from these pittsburgh suburbs, from allegheny there are still a few precincts to squeeze out of there. that's what happened. a few more came in. and conor lamb, he squeezes out, basically pads that margin by 100 votes. and that's critical for him, because, again, the more he gets out of here, the more he can withstand what's left in that republican part of the district. >> steve, would you call that
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overperforming the expectation or underperforming the expectation for lamb in that particular spot. >> it is exactly where he needed to be. that's what we've been seeing all night. he is right on that cusp. and that's why it comes down to this. >> steve, no potato is too small. jump back in whenever you need to. >> got it. >> cornell, go ahead. >> let me pick up on that point that steve making. we typically see a 15, 16-point drop off in democratic precinct turnout. we're not seeing this across the country in these elections. we're seeing democrats overperforming republican precincts, which is part of that sort of trump effect we see going on. and what i was saying earlier, even in 2006, we did not see college educated white women breaking away, which is why the suburbs are becoming so competitive, breaking away from republicans and what they see around trump the way we saw them breaking away from george bush. it is very difficult. and if i was republican, i would be most concerned what college white women are doing in the suburbs. >> all politics is local, but
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there is a trend there is a trend for republicans and the trump effect in that trend is not good. >> that's right. and it's only 16 months after trump carried that district by 20 points. that in itself actually has a little, you know, word of warning for democrats. because there is still a long time to go before the november election. and a lot can happen in american politics. and you see some of these republican voters who kind of came home to saccone after not being at all clear -- >> we've got to go back to steve kornacki, see if it's a french fry. go ahead, steve. >> we're trying to make french fries here. again, this is just what we know now is we think there are a grand total of about 9,000 uncounted votes left. oh, we just had an update here. let's do a little bit of quick math here. okay. you see here the margin now is inside of a thousand. that goes to 918. the gap now saccone within 918 of lamb. i am going to check this.
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let me see if i can do this on the fly right here. it actually -- i got to check if this came from -- we thought there might be a few precincts left here in westmoreland, or if this was in allegheny. but you see you got a little bit. just ever so slightly came in there. and the gap now again, it is within a thousand. so a little bit closer to saccone right there. we think we have 9,000. now a little bit less than 9,000 votes to be counted. and there is saccone trying to basically make up here a 900 vote gap. >> how long is it going to take them to count those 9,000 votes? >> at this rate it might be a while. but no, it really is -- westmoreland came in real fast. let me see if i get them up on the screen. westmoreland came in real fast. i got to see if it's the last remaining precincts here. that's what we were looking at. if that's the case, that would limit us. we'd be down to allegheny, washington. remember, greene is off the board. >> and steve, we will come back to you whenever you say.
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john alter, anyone who is watching this who has ever sat at home thinking i'm not sure if my vote count. tonight is one of those nights. >> we're talking 100 votes in november. 100 million people are going to vote in these midterm elections. so we shouldn't read too much into any of this, even though it's a good night for the democrats because they used to say almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenade. well, if conor lamb falls short, almost counts also in overwhelmingly republican districts. but having said that, democrats need to understand that one of the things that helped them here is they had a really good candidate. and if they go into some of the races with the wrong candidates, they're not going to flip these seats. could it's not enough just to have an anti-trump tide. you've got to have the right candidates. >> kimberly adkins, since the last congressional election, the democrats went from not being able to find a candidate to having a candidate with 9,000 votes uncounted and almost a thousand votes ahead.
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>> yeah. i mean, look, special elections are very local. i always give that caveat for all of this. but there is lessons here that can go forward looking forward and predictive of what other elections will be. and it's about the candidates, as you pointed out. it's about issues. it's about how people connect. and it's about donald trump. i mean, remember, donald trump campaigned in this district, although at that rally, he talked more about himself than he did about rick saccone. but he was there. is it that donald trump's appearance in that district helped the democratic get out the vote effort? it's quite possibly true in that sense. you also had these candidates. i mean, the former -- the former candidate congressman murphy was able to get -- he was a republican. but he got the support from unions, which rick saccone isn't doing. it's showing the power of unions here. it's showing how voters in this very rust belt place are not lockstep with republicans. it depends on the message that is being sent. so i think republicans and
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democrats have a lot to learn about this race and a lot to dissect from it moving forward. >> ron klain, the republicans watched the president go into this district on saturday night, deliver an absolutely crazed performance. we're going come back to that in a moment, though, because steve kornacki has more. >> sorry to interrupt. i can give you a little more on the votes we're looking for. we can break them down a little bit what's left. we're look at about 3,000 votes that are left in allegheny county. now remember, we're saying this is where lamb has been sort of running up the score tonight. overall, across the county, lamb is running at 58%. now we don't know if that's going to hold for each one of these remaining precincts that is out. but again, lamb has been doing better in allegheny than anywhere else. about 3,000 votes from allegheny still to come. then about 6,000 total. i said we weren't sure if the final precincts from westmoreland were in. they are still to come. so we're looking for more precincts from westmoreland. we expect those to be republican, to be saccone. also from washington we're
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expecting of the 6,000 probably more from washington than from westmoreland. but what we're seeing tonight in the two counties, again, you're looking at about 53, 57% that saccone has been running at. these interest republican areas. but again, we don't know if the percentages are going to hold in each of these precincts. is there enough if you're getting 53, 57, whatever percent of that 6,000 versus what lamb is going to get out of that remaining 3,000 or so in allegheny. again, you do the math right there, we did ate minute ago. 918 votes. that's the margin right now. 918 votes is the lead. that looks like a 4. 918 for conor lamb. >> and steve, i imagine it matters how many of these unreported precincts in washington county are right along that border with allegheny county. because there you might start to see more sympathies for lamb the closer you get to allegheny county. >> no. there is definitely that. we're also hurt a little bit by the fact that westmoreland decided tonight, i'm not sure
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why that. >> decided not to report these out by precincts. we're already ready to go and get you a better read on that. the other wild card to keep in mind tonight is that rick saccone is an elected official. he is a state legislator in pennsylvania. remember, the pennsylvania house of representatives. a lot of that district is in allegheny county. he is not winning -- excuse me. he is winning that district, not surprisingly. the key there is in that part of the district his falloff from trump not that severe. we're talking microskopcally, ever so slightly in allegheny county. >> thanks. we'll come back, as you say we have to. ron klain, the democrats looking at this have to be thinking that they're looking at those 110 districts that you mentioned where they've got 110 districts as you said where the climb up to close the gap of the republican is not as difficult as it is in this county and in this district. >> that's right. and lawrence, as you mentioned,
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president trump came in last weekend to campaign for saccone with an absolutely wild and insane performance. so the president says he is going to go around the country and campaign in districts all over the country this fall. and i think the democrats are basically saying is that a promise? please. because i think there a lot of republican districts where the airports will be closed when air force one flies over. they're not going to want donald trump to come in and do in their district what he did in saccone's district. again, whether saccone wins or loses by a hair, there is no question that trump is dragging him down. it's a democratic change.alter . things could change back. but it is a democratic change in the period of the trump presidency. that's telling you something about how voters feel about donald trump. >> kimberly adkins in massachusetts, the place where your paper is located, the boston herald.
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ted kennedy i remember used to tell democratic senators in the south and early '90s they had democratic senators in georgia, in louisiana, texas, oklahoma, and he would say to them listen, i'll come -- i'll come down and help you, or i'll stay away, whichever will help you more. and people have always known that within a party that not everyone within the party can help everyone else within the party. and there is a question in the republican party now about how much do you really want donald trump to come to your district and help with your reelection. >> and that's a real big question. i think the problem for some of these republicans who may not want the president to come is that he is vowing to come anyway. this is about him. he is making his own decision about campaigning. he likes being out on the stump. and he thinks he is the being helpful for the republican party and bringing it to a place where he is, even in these districts where we're seeing individually that might not be the case.
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so it's going to be a problem for republicans who don't want him. i can't see him being persuaded to say hey, you sit this one out. >> cornell, it's not just this one. it's not just the president about coming to the district and go out on the campaign trail. it's about what did you do in washington today? when you're voting for a member of the house, you're voting for someone to go to washington to help donald trump or to resist donald trump. and if what you're seeing in the trump white house every day is a chaos, it's another fired secretary of state, if it's another white house staffer being dragged out of the building because they are suspected of violate laws, as we had one yesterday, all of that affects these campaigns. >> and one of the things we're picking up in polling now is the question whether you want a kwhod is going to go work with donald trump or a candidate that is going to be a check on donald trump. and democrats have that advantage of check on donald trump, which is important. but i also say from a technical standpoint why this district is so important, republicans had spent a lot of money. and this is a district they don't normally have to spend
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money in. and when you look at that playing field, one of the things about 2006, we competed in more places and make republicans spread their money around. if republicans had to compete this way in a 20-point republican, this is not a swing district, there is 100 some district morse competitive than this. at some point you run out of -- you literally run out of money and ability to compete in all these districts. >> we've got to go back to steve kornacki. steve? >> i've got the list here. i think this is current of the outstanding precincts in washington county. remember, a lot of vote relatively speaking. still saying the republican area, can saccone collapse that margin of 918 votes. basically, i'm going read you a series of numbers here. and what you got to -- i'm going read you what trump did in these precincts in 2016. and then you got to keep in mind that on average in this county tonight, saccone is running eight points lower than trump. so that might give you an idea what to expect as these remaining precincts come in.
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so here we go. i got 60. so again, if form holds, that would probably come down to 52. that's very rough, though. don't quote me on that. i've got 60, 61, 77 -- keep going. sorry, it's a long spreadsheet. 64, 64, 65, 62, 65, 65, 61, 65, 64. you see it landing in a similar place here. and 57. those are the outstanding precincts. so, again, if form holds, you're knocking eight points off those roughly that would be about saccone's take. if form holds, he is getting probably in about the mid-50s in what's left in washington county, needing basically to erase a thousand points here. again, i'm just going to look at my spreadsheet and make sure i'm right on this. in allegheny, i'm looking at the trump total in what's left in
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allegheny. 57, 52. and remember, saccone is underperforming this. 57, 52, 55, 48, 61, 62, 62, 69. what i'm seeing here is some of saccone's legislative district is left. some areas trump did better in allegheny that are still left. but overall, again, lamb you've got to keep in mind. vastly over performing what hillary clinton did in 2016. >> steve, as i look at those numbers and track them, and you look at how many votes are left to be distributed between that twoez candidates, what you just gave us is extremely helpful in information that tells us yes, this is too close to call. and it keeps it close to call. as i stare at those numbers when you do that subtraction that you suggested. >> and we just got another. we'll check to see where these came from. look, here is the margin. it's cosm down a little bit more. 540 volts. i'm going go check and see
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exactly where this leaves us with what's left. again, what we were saying, all a dozen of those precincts when i started, they were outstanding in washington. you expect to go to saccone. that's not the question. the question is do they go to him by a big enough margin to erase that 900. it look likes he got it down to 540. i'm going to go check and see what's still left. >> okay, thanks, steve. john alter, this is going to be a constant revote situation obviously. but as steve was just pointing out, this trend, you can look at the saccone candidacy and say okay, how was he supposed to do better? what could he possibly have done to do better? the only thing you can think of is maybe not have donald trump come to town. >> well, you got to understand that saccone is a right to work candidate in a district that has a lot of union membership. so that already put him at a little bit of a disadvantage in this race.
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murphy who would have been the incumbent had more labor support. so this is just an indication of how the particulars really matter. so to take conor lamb's position on the issues, he is no liberal, you know. this is something that american liberals should understand. that in a lot of these districts, the best way to take it back, to flip it and hold donald trump accountable with a democratic congress is with a more conservative candidate who is more in tune with the district. he is not for gun control. and there are a series of other issues where he agrees with trump. so he would not have even been, if he were elected necessarily a reliable vote for the democrats all the time. he called for nancy pelosi not to be reelected speaker if the democrats take control. so the point is that democrats in these other races, if they're going flip the house that. >> need to think seriously not about which candidate most agrees with them, but about which candidate can win in a
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particular district. >> and we're going to go right back to steve kornacki. >> okay. a few more votes coming in. and again, that little drop we saw stabilized. the margin now sitting at 585 votes. see if i get that right. lamb up 585 votes. the other piece of news, though, is this. we're getting word there are some absentee ballots that are going to need to be counted here. and it looks like we have in two of the counties, it's greene. and this note was handed to me. the total, though, the total number of absentee ballots from two of these counties we're see is 1,400 there are an additional 1,400. at least. there might be more from the other counties. we've got to check. at least 1,400 votes that will need to be counted again. if form holds from the past, these might, might skew a little democratic. but there will be some absentee ballots here as well. obviously a number like 1,400 comes into play with a margin like 585. >> will they count those
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absentee votes tonight? >> that is what we're trying to find out. i expect so. >> jonathan alter, what cwere yu saying? >> there is a tendency in these situations to draw too many lessons. we're talking:00 precinct level politics. >> right, right. >> this is why all three of us love politics. because it does go down to the precinct level. but you just have to be careful about extrapolating too much. the politics of pennsylvania, western pennsylvania, they have their own peculiarities. and so do all of these other districts. and so -- and democrats need to be careful not to be overconfident about retaking the house. i hear a lot of that confidence out there when i talk to democrats. and it's really not merited yet. >> we're going go to kasie hunt at the candidate headquarters. kasie is at lamb headquarters. kasie, what is the feeling there? >> well, lawrence so, far as you can see, it's been a real party, especially for a house race.
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i've been to a lot of these events. most advertisements go you've go to a house race party and it's significantly smaller. however, the mood has modulated through the night because as you all have been talking about and steve kornacki has been tracking so intensely, this has narrowed. and at this point the crowd does not know what to expect. at the end of the day, it's important to underscore what your panel is just talking:00. that this is still an incredibly dramatic swing. and when we talk about what this means for the mid terms in the fall, and when you hear the words democratic enthusiasm, that's what you're looking at here in this room. these are people who are incredibly invested in a house race that, remember, this district is not going to exist in november. because of gerrymandering. and the court decision that threw out the gerrymandered districts here in pennsylvania. but this is and has laid the groundwork for democrats to be able to run a playbook in the trump era. and it's a combination of factors. clearly it's the enthusiasm. but it's also the candidates.
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and conor lamb quite frankly fit this district. he was very careful. you know, i talked to him today. i asked him about the tillerson news of today. and -- forgive me. the crowd boos when rick santorum appears on our rival cable network. it has happened several times this evening. so just by way of explanation for what is going on. but, again, conor lamb very careful not to criticize president trump. instead saying he'll try to work with him. so he has tried to navigate the enthusiasm of the resistance movement, taken a lot of the money, put a lot of tv ads up on the air. very slickly done tv ads while at the same time telling people in this district that he is going to walk that center line. he took moderate positions on guns, for example. and like i said, did not necessarily criticize the president. meanwhile, republicans were kind of asleep at the wheel when they selected a candidate. they're not happy with rick saccone. he is essentially the most conservative person they could
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have nominated. and again, this district, yes, it is the heart of trump country. a corner of it is steel mills. and we saw a lot of that driving around on the roads the last day or two. but a big chunk of it is the pittsburgh suburbs. and it looks like we're getting a little bit more cheers. perhaps some good news here at conor lamb headquarters. so that suburban outside of pittsburgh, that's the more populous part of the district. that's what you want to focus in on when we're trying to answer the question. okay, what does this mean, does this mean anything when it comes to taking back the house in 2018. as much as republicans, and i will say there was some pretty aggressive expectation setting going into this evening. they were saying oh, it's going to be an early night. it's going to be conor lamb by 3 to 6 percentage points. when you say that going in before the polls close, you are able to say hey, this is better than what we thought it would be. this reality is this is a plus 20 trump district. and they are very close to
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losing it tonight that is a fundamental reality to focus on. >> thank you, kasie. now vaughn hillyard amount@saccone headquarters. what is the situation there? >> are there are a lot of expectations around conor lamb that this wasn't going to be a good night here at this headquarters. when the first numbers were coming out with conor lamb with that percentage of 8%, people were back here eating and drinking. and people over the course night made their way up. but they just made the announcement in here that there are those precincts that are outstanding, that they don't expect those votes in tonight. in those absentee ballots. i actually want to take you back if i can. i was with rick saccone in washington county yesterday, in cannonsberg. he was there over with don jr. and i was speaking with the man there, anthony ross was his name. he worked for 42 years at a steel facility that closed back in 2008. at that point when it closed, he left the workforce. and he said that he was undecided at that point. i just got off the phone with him. and i said ultimately, how did you make your decision? he said he voted for conor lamb.
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he said if this goes for conor lamb, the reason why washington county will have gone for conor lamb is ultimately because rick saccone failed to take a true position on where he was with not only the unions at large, but particularly with coal miners. the coal miners pension benefits. this is what we're talking about with a congressional race like this. despite all the nationalizing with donald trump, this is what it comes down to in a place like washington county. in a lot of the boroughs, it come downs to people like anthony ross. he told me ultimately he was a donald trump voter, ultimately was in his corner, he did not get that same assurance from rick saccone. when you're looking at races across the country like this, this is going to be a real test, particularly where the open republican seats are here. rick saccone as a general republican candidate should have had this race in a bag. but when you're looking at there is about 15 other republican open seats heading into november at this point, coming from republicans that have decided to retire. and so what those individuals,
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that whose republicans -- remind you, last tuesday was the first primary that was in texas. so we this spring are beginning the primary season that will roll through the summer and into the fall. and which republican voters will ultimately pick candidates like they chose rick saccone to be their candidate. and if democrats are able to field these types of candidates, i think that particularly those 15 open seats like rick saccone faced here today are going to be the seats we play extra attention to. regardless whether rick saccone wins tonight or not, the fact that rick saccone, a local entity was this close is something to be noted. >> vaughn hillyard, great analysis of the situation in that district. thank you for joining us. now back to steve cokornacki wh has more. >> a bunch of numbers at you. conor lamb is clinging to that lead at 6 -- actually 700 votes exactly. 700 votes right now is the lead for conor lamb in this election. now what do we have left out is there? a couple of things. we think we have about 3,000
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votes that are left here in washington county. again, this has been a saccone county, republican county. we still think there are about 700 that are left here in westmoreland there is also this. so look, if these areas, 23 you just do the quick math of how this thing has been going, you look at that gap, you factor in that these are republican areas, you look at the clip that saccone has been winning, boy, that eats into a lot of the 700. and that makes this thing really, really coming down to the wire on that. but then the wild card emerges if saccone eats into that lamb lead and we basically end up in a push situation here. there are the absentee ballots. and those are going to be counted. not tonight. i'm not sure in every county. at least two of the counties will not be counting them tonight. but here is what we have on absentee ballots. it looks like more than half -- there is going to be about 7,000 of them total, total about 7,000 absentee ballots it looks like in this district. more than half of these are going to come from allegheny county. now you can figure this out if
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you've been following along. allegheny did not account for half the vote in this district tonight. it accounted for less. a little over 40%. and yet more than 50% of the absentee ballots are from allegheny county. and allegheny county is conor lamb sort of bedrock basis support in this district. so that you would say is good news for lamb there is also this. how do the absentee ballots usually go? well, we can tell you in 2016 in allegheny county, hillary clinton won the absentee ballots by four points. she lost the allegheny county portion of this district to trump by four points. so those absentee ballots in 2016 were a little bit more friendly to clinton than the election day votes. and more than half of the absentee ballots that are going to be counted come from allegheny county. so we've got two things that are in motion right now. number one, the outstanding election day vote. this s that going to get saccone to lamb's number?
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is he going to catch him? is he going to come up just short? two, the absentee ballots. we're going to find out the exact proceed dwroerns entire district and when and how we will find out about these. but that's the thing we know. it looks like the lion's share of these are in allegheny. there are plenty that are in the rest of the district. but disproportionately, i think that's the word, disproportionately they're in allegheny. that is the word, steve. disproportionately. thank you very much, steve. we're going to come back to you as soon as you say we should. cornell belcher, if this comes down to the absentee votes, that looks like a very positive possibility for conor lamb. >> lawrence, let me get into tactics here. hats off to the lamb campaign. because that doesn't happen by accident. that many absentee votes are from a democratic area is about good old-fashioned campaign work, right. and that good old-fashioned campaign work may -- up to this moment, i actually thought that lamb was going to lose.
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if half of those absentee votes are from that democratic area, i think he squeaks it out. either way, recount lawyers, get ready. but that is a good campaign work. >> the recount situation -- we're going to go back to steve kornacki right now. >> just quickly to complete the thought there. we said when will the absentee ballots be counted. greene tiny part of this in terms of vote. but greene and washington counties will not be counting their absentee ballots tonight. allegheny and westmoreland say they will get their absentee counts done by midnight. so that's a key thing to keep in mind. again, because we just said if it comes down to absentee ballots, how critical allegheny is to lamb. and it looks like we'll get a readout from allegheny by midnight tonight. >> and jonathan alter, for people who didn't think they planned to watch cable news until midnight tonight, what they need to know is that the allegheny absentee ballots are going to be counted before midnight tonight. and that is a reason to keep
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your tv on. >> and they look like they're going to be decisive. because greene county, it's a cow county. there are very few people who live down there. and all of the population in that district is up in those pittsburgh suburbs where people are in business, and maybe they're out of town on business. so they vote absentee. and then as cornell indicated, you get better organization by the democrats of the absentee ballots. that's very much like the early voting you see in other states. a lot of that is about elbow grease. it's about who is out there organizing on the ground old-fashioned field organizing. for all the talk of, you know, social media campaigns and television advertising, which is in some ways becoming old-fashioned, a lot of this is ground out on the ground, at the door, you know. the canvassing. and so that's where the energy that the democrats have really comes in handy. >> and ron klain, it seems that both democrats and republicans
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will take strategy lessons out of this tonight. >> i think they will, lawrence. but i think there are a couple big picture lessons, especially for the democrats. i agree with jonathan alter. i don't want to be overconfident about 2018. but three really great things here. one, as cornell mentioned, it's unusual for democrats to so outperform in delivering absentee ballots. that is a sign of democratic enthusiasm. and that's the thing we've seen across the country. that matters. that's a trend that matters at election day, right? the second thing is a lot of trump voters coming back to the democratic party. that's a trend that is going to count this election. in the third, we talked about trump campaigning in this district for the republican. we need to mention the one national democrat who campaigned in this district for conor lamb, my former boss joe biden who went into this district, was welcomed by lamb, rallied the troops and i think made a big difference for lamb. we're going see him all over the country this fall. >> kimberly adkins, the enthusiasm that we're seeing tonight in the democratic vote
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can be reinforced by a win in this district. that kind of enthusiasm gets contagious. winning is the contagion that spreads it around. it's hard to make the argument to nonprofessionals in politics that coming in close and losing by half a point is hugely impressive. if the democrats come out of this with an actual win. that seems to be contagious. >> it is. while even a close race is some good news for the democrats, a loss will still give president trump and other republicans a chance to celebrate. and that could dampen that enthusiasm. you want to keep that momentum going. and i think another point in terms of how democrats if they want to make the kind of gains they want to see in the mid terms have to keep that enthusiasm going. is that you're talking about these absentee ballots and how it is similar to the early voting you've seen. in a lot of states, early voting has been rolled back.
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the state legislatures have made moves to shorten the length of time and reduce how much early voting counts. so the democrats are going to need even more enthusiasm going to overcome some of those changes that we've seen in recent years in the voting law that had been implemented by the state legislatures. >> and to kimberly's point, cornell, that seems to be precisely the driving force in so many republican efforts to basically restrict voter access. >> right. because what we see, lawrence, is when you have a younger, more diverse electorate, it benefits democrats. america is not getting whiter. it's getting browner. as america gets browner and republicans refuse quite frankly to compete, they've got to block off the access. it is a recipe for democratic disaster. democratic not party but as in our democracy. >> and jonathan, you were going to the point that this democrat running is somewhere between a hillary clinton democrat and the joe
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manchin democrat. but we're going back to steve kornacki at this point. >> i haven't added enough wrinkles. i'm going to add one more there is two x factors. one is the remaining outstanding vote. no change in that since the last time i came on. two, then, the absentee situation. now let me give you three. state law in pennsylvania calls for a recount if the final margin in a race is within half a percentage point. 0.5. well, these are not the exact numbers. the exact numbers right now are conor lamb, 49.9%. and rick saccone, 49.5%. so right now a gap of .4. .5 allows for a recount. so there is a possibility here that this ends up with a recount. there is also the possibility of course that the absentees are really good to lamb and that obviates the situation there is also the possibility the remaining vote is strong for saccone and he ends up winning this thing. that's the other thing to keep in mind, within half a point. >> and we've got the recount
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music ready to go if it comes to that. jonathan alter, this is one of those nights where the democratic party has to look at itself and say -- and recognize what they -- what they always recognized in years past is that a democrat who wins in alabama is going to be very different from a democrat who wins in new york. >> right. this is the key thing, to not form the circular firing squad that democrats often do, where they have very bloody primaries, and they challenge each other's motives. and say that the other candidate isn't pure enough on a particular issue. they have to set that all aside. the stakes are too high. and i think they will. there is some real signs of maturity on the part of a lot of voters and organizers. the big thing i'm looking for when we see if there are exit polls or when we get some breakdowns from cornell and other pollsters is what happened with these republican women
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outside of pittsburgh in the suburbs. did they peel off trump in greater than usual numbers? this district is only 7% black, which normally is bad news for democrats. if you don't have minority voters in those districts. so they're clearly the democrats are clearly getting a lot of suburban women. and they will hold the key. white suburban women will hold the key to whether the democrats regain control of congress. >> and joining our conversation now is mckay coppins, a staff writer for the atlantic magazine. he is the author of "the wilderness deep inside the republican party's chaotic quest." mckay, you have great sources on in trump world. it seems that a few hundred voters in this district may be the ones who decide whether donald trump condemns the candidate that he backed in this election or takes full credit for the win. >> yeah, that's absolutely right. we can basically guess what the
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early morning tweets from the president are going to be tomorrow morning depending entirely on the outcome of the election. the question for me is, you know, if this is actually -- if tonight is actually about political narratives going into the previous midterms, given all the peculiarities of this district, the question is -- jonathan was getting at it earlier. what are democrats willing to do in other races? are they willing to let candidates like conor lamb, a relatively moderate candidate win in primaries where they're going to need to be like that to win general elections. i think it's possible. the thing that's struck me the most about his campaign is the degree to which lamb has not talked about trump on the campaign trail. my colleague was there last week and she was covering this. and he might be the only democrat in the country who doesn't want to talk about donald trump. now he is benefitting from the
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anti-trump energy that's in the democratic base. but he is talking about issues, kitchen table issues that his voters care about in the district. he doesn't want to make this a referendum on trump. and i'm curious to see if other democrats in red districts are willing to follow that playbook the rest of this year. >> well, they always were in the past. and especially when they had the big, big margin fwhs their favor in the house of representatives. mckay, i want you to tell us what happens inside the republican caucus room in the house of representatives tomorrow. no matter which way this goes, they're professionals. all those republican house members in that room with paul ryan tomorrow, they know what happened here if their guy squeaks it out by a couple of hundred votes, there is going to be a tremendous worry in that room tomorrow no matter who squeaks out this win. >> the worry has already settled. in talking to republican strategists the last couple of days, they're all pointing to this race, regardless what
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happens. they know it's closer than it should be. they know that their candidate is severely underperforming. and for whatever weaknesses saccone has, he is a relatively standard republican candidate. and so running on the issues he is running on, being a republican this year and underperforming to the extent that he is, you talk to republican strategists, and they're saying we need to figure out almost on the fly if there is a new message we should be adopting as a party, how we're going to handle the trump factor. it's interesting because you hear from these republicans. and they're basically talking about pressing the panic button and figuring out how to recalibrate their whole midterm strategy. and we're only months away from some of these races unfolding. so it is -- it's something the republicans are already aware of. and regardless of what happens tonight, this is only another kind of element of the general crisis that they could be facing
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in the midterms. >> i can now tell when steve kornacki has something to say, simply by the way he moves toward the camera. steve, go ahead. >> okay. let me set the situation for you. a couple new things to say. the margin, conor lamb leads by 755 votes over rick saccone. saccone is trying to make this up first with the votes that are left. first of all, we can tell you, allegheny county, this is sort of the heart of conor lamb country. all of the election day vote, that's it. the only thing left out of allegheny county right now is going to be the absentee ballots. we talked about those a little earlier. so conor lamb getting no more election day votes out of allegheny. the other big thing we've been looking for in terms of the remaining election day vote is right here in washington county. there are nine, we believe nine precincts left in washington county that have yet to report. how is this for drama? they are in transit and expected to be known in the next 20 minutes. so in the next 20 minutes -- >> transit to where, steve? where are they going with the
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votes? >> hopefully right here in 30 rock. here is what i can tell you about the nine precincts that are left in washington county. remember, saccone got to run up the score to make up the 755 votes. i'm going give you the trump percentage in these remaining precincts. and remember, saccone has been trailing that by about 8 points. here we go. 65, 65, 61, 65, 61, 64, 62, 65, 62. pretty consistent. low, mid-60s. if the law of averages holds on this, you would knock eight points off that. is that going to be enough? these are pretty small precincts here. is that going to be enough to knock 755 off the total? that's the drama in the next 20 minutes, we think. >> and the question then becomes, steve, as all the third grade math students out there know is how many votes are in that pile that we just talked about in those precincts. >> if maybe they -- i got my little thing set up here. i can give you a couple of examples. this is what we're talking
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about. we're looking, for instance, one where trump got 61%. we expect about 3 -- this is rough, about 350 give it to you in five seconds, put me on the clock. you know -- yeah. 800, 700, maybe about 400. you're talking hundreds of votes in these precincts. some are closer to 500, some are closer to 200. maybe a little less for saccone, and you can start doing the back of the envelope calculations. >> my back of the envelope says maybe he could pick up saccone, could pick up maybe 50 votes in one precinct, 100 in other
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precin precinct. it could come in shy of 1700, we don't know. >> we could be shifting to allegheny and by midnight tonight we expect to know. >> if we were to project some kind of tie coming out of the little package we just talked about in those precincts tonight, we would not be projecting a tie coming out of those 1400 ballots inial gain a. that would be projecting very much in favor of lamb. >> we're looking at more than 1400, i think, outallegheny. the world is full of surprises from the era of trump, but what we know from past experiences and certainly what we know from the 2016 election is that hillary clinton performed better in the absentee votes in allegheny county than she did on election day. won the absentee by four, lost allegheny by four. and we know by the absentee votes that are out there, more than half are going to come out
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of allegheny county. certainly if you're a democrat, that's encouraging news, but we're getting into that territory here where funny things have happened. >> you're giving them the things they need to carry -- >> and they're going to have more. >> they're going to have more. as this hour approaches a close, we're not going to have a winner in this hour. we might have a winner tonight. we might have something of a de facto winner if all that's left to count are those allegheny absentee ballots since we could safely project something that would favor lamb in that outcome. this is the election that was slow to grab public attention but finally did, especially did on saturday night when donald trump went to the district and tried to push this candidate over the top. and here we are tonight. >> yeah. i mean, i know a thing or two about recounts and they're not
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fun, but that could be where we're headed here. >> are you available, mr. klein, for a recount? given your former experience, would you like to -- >> you might want someone who wants a recount this time. one observation i would like to make which is 2018 is a midterm unlike any other. it's the first time you had a record number of retirements by the party that's in power. what that means is, we talked a lot tonight about who the democrats will select to run in 2018. the republicans are are goigoin have to nominate a lot of new candidates in 2002. if they add candidates like rick saccone, that will add significantly to the house. the democrats have to be careful about who they nominate, the republicans have an unprecedented challenge. conor lamb not a good candidate,
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rick saccone, not a good candidate. >> and it's not that interesting, it's just going to be an emotional reaction or self-glorifying of the republican loser if he's a loser, but within the trump administration, is there anyone who will react to this as an adult? >> i think that remains to be seen. i think the president's voice is the one that sort of drowns out everyone else's, but the people within the white house should be reconcern very concerned by this wave. as difficult as it is for the president and the white house to get anything on its agenda done, now it's going to be that much worse with a split house if the democrats take back the house. it will be near impossible. it would ratch up talk of impeachment since it's the house that can bring articles of impeachment if it comes to that. it will be a much bigger headache than they have now, so they should be doing everything that they can to try to get a republican message, try to help
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vet out potential candidates and whatever they can do to hold onto the house because that's absolutely crucial to the white house agenda. >> mckay coppins, if you were for candidate saccone, the one thing you wanted for the trump white house today on election day, the one thing you wanted was stability. you would have liked to have one day where it looked like an actual white house. instead you wake up to he has fired the secretary of state who has called the president a moron in the past. you have scandals around kellyanne conway's use of private aircraft similar to what brought down one of the cabinet members. you have the story of a white house aide being basically dragged out of the building yesterday because he has problems with on-line gambling and possibly tax crimes. that's just today in the trump
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white house, and the question in that district tonight is, do you send someone to washington to support donald trump and what's going on in that white house, or do you send someone who might just resist it a little bit? >> that's right. you know, one of the most common complaints, maybe the most common complaint you hear from republicans on capitol hill when you have conversations in private or off the record or in the background is that this president does not care about the party. he does not care about the congressional majority, or at least doesn't show that he cares with the way that he acts. every time they're on the brink of a major legislative accomplishment -- >> i have to go to steve kornacki. i can tell he's got something for us. >> yeah, i would say i have something significant here. you can see, first of all, in the overall count in the district right now, look at that margin. we're inside 100 votes. it is 95. and remember, we've been talking about 5, 6, 700. it's shrunk.
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why has it come down? i am checking the precincts -- we said washington is where we're looking for that trump district so there's trump precincts. i believe we've got them in from washington right now. i am looking at my list and i am not seeing an outstanding precinct in washington. so i believe we now have the answer about washington county. i got to see if we've got anything left here in we westmoreland tonight, but otherwise we know allegheny is in. i believe washington is in. we know greene is in. i'm going to get you the final here on westmoreland. and yeah, we're sitting there at -- we're going to check that -- we're sitting here at 49-7, 49-7. i think we're basically looking at the election day total here with conor lamb the democrat leading by 95 votes, and remember, we then go into
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absentee ballots. >> steve, in my calculations here, i actually wrote 95. before when you told me all that stuff about the precincts, cornell belcher -- the numbers steve laid out for us before, if you were doing it in your head it was something like that or a tie. that's why i kept saying a tie. there you are at a statistical tie. the allegheny absentees look like they're going to decide this, and they will probably decide this in favor of conor lamb. >> and some young man or woman in the lamb campaign who works the field and is in charge of absentee ballot probably won that district tonight. >> every generation has to learn anew that every vote counts. it's almost 18 years now since the 2000 election where ron mcclain was involved and the presidential election came down to just two votes. you have the millennials in the
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election now, and they need to learn this anew. so many say, my vote doesn't count, who cares if i show up? this is real proof that it really does matter if you get out there and vote. >> we're covering real coverage here. steve kornacki, thank you. i would say take a break but i know you won't. i know brian is going to use you in the next several minutes. when we got to 95, it wasn't so much of a surprise because you had led us right up to it. really appreciate it. last word, steve, before you go. >> thanks for letting me ride along. i love getting to do this stuff. we're just checking on final precincts, but the last thing quickly here, 3700 requested ballots out of allegheny, 800 out of westmoreland, skpshs this this is the entire election vote, that's what's left.
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>> and that is the last word. steve kornacki gets the last word. i want to thank my panel. thank you all for joining us for this extraordinary hour. coming up, much more special election coverage in pennsylvania. "the 11th hour with brian williams" starts right now. and without delay tonight, good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. we should tell you at the outset we're going two hours because of the pace of news tonight. while this was day 418 of the trump administration, we are following, if you've been following it along with us, you know a barnburner in western pennsylvania. an extremely close special election in the 18th congressional district. right now the race is too close to call. it's been too close to call with the democrat conor lamb leading the republican rick saccone by just

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