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Pennsylvania House race a test for both parties

iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- The stakes are high in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District special election as both Democrats and Republicans are closely watching the results for indications of how the 2018 midterm elections may play out and for signs of who might control the House of Representatives after November.

If Democrat Conor Lamb wins, his party will claim their candidates can run and win anywhere in the country – even ruby red districts won by Donald Trump with double digits — which will boost their odds in regaining the House.

If GOP candidate Rick Saccone wins, Republicans will argue that their chances of keeping the House remain solid.

10:07 P.M. - Saccone and Lamb are neck and neck

With more than 95 percent of precincts reporting in PA-18, Rick Saccone and Conor Lamb are separated by just over 1,000 votes in the raw total.

About 6,000 absentee ballots have been returned in PA-18 and none have been counted so far. Allegheny and Westmoreland counties expect to count them later tonight in their final report, but Greene and Washington counties say they will not count them until tomorrow.

9:45 P.M. - Saccone inches forward in vote count

Our ABC News analysis shows this will, in fact, end up being an extremely tight race. Democratic Conor Lamb right now is tracking at the number he needs in the raw vote tabulation in each county in order to tie.

With more than 70 percent of precincts reporting in the district, Republican candidate Rick Saccone has made up ground on Lamb.

We estimate there are over 40,000 votes out in Westmoreland and Washington counties and about 18,000 votes out in Allegheny county and as a result, we expect the current five-point margin appearing in vote totals to shrink more and tighten.

Westmoreland is the second largest county in the district, which Trump won in 2016 by 34 percentage points. Saccone is currently leading Lamb by 14 percentage points, contributing to the narrowing of results.

Lamb is obviously doing better in the most Democratic of precincts, but where Lamb is outperforming Clinton the most right now is in actually the most Republican precincts.

9:31 P.M. - Saccone watching results, not TV

Several of the voters at Saccone headquarters are wearing Trump hats or pins. And a spokesperson for Saccone tells ABC News' Becky Perlow that the candidate is upstairs, above the rally with his wife, son Matt, Matt’s wife and his two grandkids. They’re not watching the news. They just keep refreshing the Pennsylvania Secretary of State website, watching the results.

9:13 P.M. - Saccone making up some ground

With 35 percent of precincts reporting, Republican candidate Rick Saccone is making up ground.

Precincts are starting to report in Westmoreland, the second largest county in the district, which Trump won in 2016 by 34 percentage points. Saccone is currently leading Lamb by 10 percentage points, narrowing the gap we’ve seen so far in the raw vote.

9:04 P.M. - Lamb still outperforming Clinton

Lamb is also leading in the vote tabulation in Washington County and strongly outperforming Hillary Clinton in the county. In the 2016 race, Trump bested Clinton by over 25 percentage points, currently, Lamb is leading Saccone, although these are still the very first votes to come in from the county.

9:01 P.M. - Saccone voter praises candidate's support for Trump

Holden Sczerba, a 19-year-old Duquesne University College Republican vice president, told ABC News he supported Saccone because he's the best candidate to support Trump's agenda. He also mentioned the tax cuts Republicans passed, which is an issue the GOP hopes will get them traction with voters in other contests.

ABC News' Becky Perlow reports from Saccone's headquarters that the energy in the room is nervous excitement. They all expect Saccone to win, given the district's red history. Most of the voters here are personal friends of Saconne's — people who have known him for 15, 20+ years, and have shared stories about him as a friend, a military veteran, and more.

8:57 P.M. - Lamb is outpacing Clinton's 2016 performance

Lamb is currently leading in the raw vote tabulation, but most of these numbers are from Allegheny county, the largest and the most Democratic of the counties in the 18th Congressional District. Lamb is outperforming Hillary Clinton in both Allegheny, the largest county in the district, and in Greene, the smallest, despite Saccone currently leading in Greene. In 2016, President Trump won Greene count by 43 points.

8:48 P.M. - First set of numbers rolling in

The first numbers are coming in and Democrat Conor Lamb is out-performing Hillary Clinton in the first precincts to report. We should caution these are the very first results.

The first votes posted more than 45 minutes after the polls closed and the numbers are changing by the minute.

8:46 P.M. - And what is Trump doing tonight?

For those curious as the Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District results continue rolling in, President Donald Trump is currently attending a fundraiser at the Beverly Hills estate of Ed Glazer, who is the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tickets for the fundraiser range from $35k-250k per person for the Trump Victory committee, the joint fundraiser between the Trump reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee.

The committee expects the event will raise $5 million.

8:39 P.M. - The role of unions

ABC News talked to Reading, Penn. Mayor John Fetterman who argued that Lamb ran as a moderate Democrat and that fit the mold of the district. In particular, Fetterman cited Lamb's support for unions as a part of his success.

"The major miscalculation Saccone has made is talking about his right-to-work chops. I think that's really going to cost him the election," he said.

8:15 P.M. - Conor Lamb supporters hopeful

At Conor Lamb headquarters in Canonsburg, Penn., a roar went up at 8 p.m. when polls closed, a major milestone for so many of the party's attendees who have braved the western Pennsylvania cold all winter to canvass for the political novice. All election night parties begin as spirited affairs but there's a notable buzz in the air here and campaign staffers have been doing a poor job of hiding their grins.

8:00 P.M. - Polls have closed in Pennsylvania

6:25 P.M. - The sights and sounds of election day

Conor Lamb took his grandmother to the polls to vote this morning in Carnegie, Pennsylvania. Rick Saccone thanked President Trump as he exited the voting booth.

See below for a round-up of the sights and sounds of Election Day so far in Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District.

5:42 P.M. - Both candidates urging last minute voters to get to the polls

With just two and a half hours left until polls close, both Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb are taking to Twitter to urge those last minute voters to get out and vote before 8 P.M.

Turnout is expected to be key in the special election tonight, and both candidates are obviously aware they can't leave any votes on the table.

3:51 P.M. – Candidates project aura of optimism

ABC’s News "18 for 18" reporter Adam Kelsey, on the ground in the 18th Congressional District, reports that both campaigns have attempted to project an aura of optimism as voters head to the polls.

Democrat Conor Lamb’s campaign aides and volunteers are downright bubbly when you speak to them, clearly aware that their candidate has made major strides in this deep-red district, win or lose.

On the other side, GOP candidate Rick Saccone told ABC News on Monday that he was feeling confident.

As for voters?

Kelsey notes that are the Hillary Clinton supporters who have been horrified by the past year and are downright giddy at the chance to set off a blue wave while there are President Donald Trump supporters trying to "save the country.”

Then there are the union members who want to save their jobs and think Lamb is the candidate who will look out for them because Saccone has defended "right to work" laws.

And there are union members who want to save their jobs and know that Saccone will back Trump's tariffs (although Lamb supports them too) and the "America first" agenda to do it.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Author: KT

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