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Lamb leads Saccone in poll released on eve of special election

Tom Fontaine
| Monday, March 12, 2018, 2:54 p.m.
Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, are running for Congress in a March 13 special election.
Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb, a former federal prosecutor, are running for Congress in a March 13 special election.

Conor Lamb will win Western Pennsylvania's special election race for Congress on Tuesday if there is a surge in Democratic turnout similar to what has been seen in other special elections over the past year, according to a Monmouth University poll out Monday.

The Monmouth poll's “Democratic surge” model shows Lamb collecting 51 percent of the vote compared with Saccone's 45 percent, while 1 percent of likely voters would opt for a third-party candidate and 3 percent remain undecided. The poll's margin of error is 5.1 percent.

Monmouth said Lamb holds a slim advantage within the margin of error, 49 percent to 47 percent, if the election has a lower turnout similar to what is normally seen in midterm elections. If turnout is higher across the board, similar to a presidential election year, Lamb would defeat Saccone, 51 percent to 44 percent.

Saccone held an advantage over Lamb in all three polling scenarios last month.

“This district has voted overwhelmingly Republican in recent elections, but a large number of these voters have blue-collar Democratic roots. Lamb seems to have connected with them,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“When added to a potential Democratic surge that has been building for weeks, Lamb appears to have picked off enough Republican-leaning voters to take a lead,” Murray said.

Monmouth said 95 percent of likely voters identifying themselves as Democrats support Lamb, while 88 percent of Republicans back Saccone. Independents favor Lamb, 51 percent to 45 percent.

The poll surveyed 372 voters by phone from March 8 to 11.

Lamb, 33, of Mt. Lebanon is a former Marine officer and federal prosecutor with bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. Saccone, 60, of Elizabeth Township is a fourth-term state representative and former Air Force counterintelligence officer with a Ph.D. in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

They are vying to replace former GOP congressman Tim Murphy, who resigned in October amid an extramarital scandal. The congressional district includes parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington and Greene counties. Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 24,000 in the district, but Trump carried it by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 and Murphy never had a race closer than 16 percentage points in his eight runs for Congress, including the past two elections in which he was unopposed.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review assistant news editor.

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