The battle between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb for Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district turned from Tuesday into Wednesday with no official winner. The race is too close to call, with just a few hundred votes separating the two.
If he doesn't win, Saccone plans to submit petitions on March 20 to run in the 14th congressional district, a political consultant for the campaign tells CBS News' Nicole Sganga.
The holdup is thousands of absentee ballots that have yet to be counted. The results are anticipated to roll in Wednesday.
The closeness of the race prompted a visit from President Trump on Saturday. Republicans hoped the president's appearance would help turn out the vote, and avoid an embarrassment in a district Mr. Trump won by 20 points in 2016.
Saccone sent supporters home for the night, while Lamb essentially declared victory.
"It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!" he said.
"You did it!" he added.
"I see so many great friends out here," Lamb continued. "You know four months ago right after we won the Democratic nomination, before we ever even had a chance to open an office, the grassroots leaders that are in this room tonight came to us and they said, print us something, print anything so we can get out there and start canvassing - they said get going they said or we're going without you - well, we went together and I can't thank you enough."
Saccone's lackluster fundraising -- Lamb's campaign has out-raised him by nearly 5-1 in the first seven weeks of 2018 -- concerned his party. Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran and former prosecutor, has raised most of his cash from his own campaign, while Saccone has had to look to outside groups.
Follow our live election results updates below:
CBS News interviews Conor Lamb
CBS News had an extensive interview with Lamb on Tuesday.
Lamb said he's learned a lot throughout this experience.
"I've learned how open minded and reasonable people truly are," "Lamb said. "Everyone gave me a fair shake. Didn't have a single conversation where someone refused to talk to me based on 2016 or any other election. Been a really cool experience for me."
If he wins, Lamb would run in a different district in November than he was elected into this month. But that isn't an issue for him at the moment.
"I think we need to wait and see exactly how the map shakes out," Lamb said. "But I'm not concerned about it right now. I told the people of this district - the 18th district that I would run for them and I would represent them so for the rest of the year they will be my focus."
Voters running out of time to head to polls
Voters have until 8 p.m. to head to the polls in Pennsylvania's 18th District.
Polls closing soon
Polls are closing soon in Pennsylvania's 18th District, although it's unlikely results will appear immediately.
But don't expect this night to go quickly. It's a tossup, with lots of rural precincts. There are 593 precincts in total. This will likely be a very late night for those watching.
Polls closed — too soon to call
It's 8 p.m., and polls are now closed across the district in southwest Pennsylvania.
But it's too soon to make any estimates. Results should start rolling in over the next 20-30 minutes.
First results in
The first results have come in after half an hour in Pennsylvania's 18th District.
With four precincts reporting out of 593, Saccone is barely edging out Lamb.
In the first precinct to report, Lamb was up 52 percent to 47 percent -- Mr. Trump won that district against Hillary Clinton, 56 percent to 41 percent, according to elections expert J. Miles Coleman.
Early precincts voting more Democratic than past elections
Lamb is pulling ahead of Saccone, as the still-early votes roll in.
With just 1.69 percent of precincts reporting, Lamb leads Saccone 59 percent to 41 percent, roughly.
More significantly, the early precincts are all showing swings in Lamb's direction over previous elections.
As results pour in, Lamb continues to perform well
With 10 percent of precincts reporting, Lamb is clearly pulling ahead. But it's still early.
So far, Lamb has received 59 percent of the vote, to Saccone's 41 percent.
District Trump easily won leaning towards Lamb
Washington County, which Mr. Trump won by more than 20 points, is breaking for Lamb so far.
National Republicans not optimistic
A GOP operative in the race tells CBS News' Nancy Cordes that "our numbers don't look good" - specifically, overnight party data showed Lamb leading Saccone by 3 to 7 points. They're not throwing in the towel entirely, but they're very pessimistic.
Like other party operatives, this source is pinning the blame squarely on Saccone - not the party or the president. "He's not a bad guy, he's a good guy who worked hard...but he didn't know how to run a race like this and was out of his league."
Saccone has been a state lawmaker since 2010, while Lamb hasn't run for office before.
Saccone, this operative notes, didn't appear to be entirely comfortable at campaign events -- including his appearances with President Trump -- and "was hoping to win by going door to door, and you can't do that anymore." He also "didn't successfully lay out his background," even as Lamb "defined himself as a mini-republican or a moderate." This operative believes many PA-18 voters were unaware, for example, of Saccone's foreign policy background and the fact that he has authored nine books.
What about Mr. Trump's waning popularity, even in red districts like this one? "It's hard to extrapolate Trump stuff when it isn't necessarily about that on the ground...a lot of this is about polices." Operative said they'll have a better sense of the Trump effect once they see the final numbers.
-- CBS News' Nancy Cordes
Too early to project a winner
As of 9:12 p.m. - it's early - Lamb is out to an early lead, but most of the votes that have come in are from more Democratic areas. It remains too early to project a winner.
Race tightens; Saccone pulls closer to Lamb
The results in the race are tightening at 9:22 p.m., as Republican areas fill in and Saccone edges closer to Lamb.
It remains a close race, says says CBS News elections director Anthony Salvanto.
As of 9:29 p.m., with nearly 62 percent of precincts reporting, it's Lamb 52 percent to Saccone 47 percent.
Atmosphere a bit strained at Saccone HQ
CBS News' Nicole Sganga reports the atmosphere at Saccone HQ is a bit strained, although people present were encouraged by the tightening of the race.
Mood is festive at Lamb HQ
The mood is festive at Lamb's headquarters, reports CBS News' Rebecca Kaplan.
At 9:30 p.m., the ballroom is packed with people smiling, taking pictures, drinking and cheering every time the TV feed shows Lamb performing well. At one point, an image of Mr. Trump was shown on the screen and the crowd booed loudly.
In short, Lamb supporters feel optimistic.
Lamb holds onto lead
At 9:42 p.m., Lamb is holding onto his lead.
With 72 percent of precincts reporting, it's 51.47 percent for Lamb, 47.92 percent for Saccone, to be very specific.
Race very close
At 9:49 p.m., with 72 percent of precincts reporting, it's an extremely close race. More GOP strongholds are expected to roll in soon.
Lamb has 50.96 percent of the vote, compared to Saccone's 48.42 percent of the vote.
In short, it's a very close race, according to CBS News' elections director Anthony Salvanto.
Lamb drops below 50 percent
Lamb has dropped below 50 percent, just before 10 p.m. Lamb has 49.87 percent of the vote, compared to Saccone's 49.52 percent.
CBS News' elections director Anthony Salvanto says this:
Race effectively tied, with most precincts in
With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the race is effectively tied.
Lamb has 49.87 percent of the vote, and Saccone has 49.52 percent of the vote.
Lamb holds slight edge as race is all but tied
With 96.29 percent of precincts reporting, Lamb has 49.99 percent of the vote, to Saccone's 49.39 percent of the vote.
Waiting for the final precincts to roll in
The results are still incredibly close, as the public waits for the final precincts to report their results.
As of 10:22 p.m., Lamb had 49.91 percent of the vote, while Saccone had 49.48 percent of the vote. That's with 574 of the 593 precincts reporting.
No automatic recount in a race like this
There is no provision in Pennsylvania state law for an automatic recount in a congressional race like this.
Automatic recounts only take place in statewide elections, when the results are within half of one percent.
Race only about 500 votes apart
The race is only about 500 votes apart now, as of 10:28 p.m., according to CBS News elections director Anthony Salvanto.
With 98 percent reporting, it's a very close race
With nearly 98 percent of precincts reporting, only hundreds of votes separate Lamb and Saccone.
At 10:35 p.m., Lamb had 48.83 percent or 107,155 votes, and Saccone had 49.56 percent, or 106,570 votes.
Down to a 300-vote difference
The race is down to a 300-point difference, with Lamb still having the slight edge over Saccone. That's with nearly 98 percent of precincts reporting.
Race could be determined by absentee ballots
This race is definitely coming down to the wire -- and it could be determined by absentee ballots.
Many absentee ballots have yet to be counted, and it's possible many of those -- hundreds and hundreds of them -- may not be counted before the night is over.
Many of the small areas with votes yet to trickle in lean heavily Republican -- the race still looks quite even.
CBS News' election director Anthony Salvanto said that aside from absentee votes, Saccone needs 56 percent of what CBS estimates to be the outstanding precinct vote. That's about what he's been getting in recent reports, so it may not change the race.
In other words, absentee ballots could very well decide this election.
Lamb gets boost with Allegheny County absentee votes
Lamb took roughly 700 votes from absentee ballots counted in Allegheny County, giving him an 847-vote edge. That was a huge boost from his merely 95-vote lead moments earlier.
But we're still waiting on absentee votes in two other counties -- and those may not be counted until Wednesday.
More than 3,000 absentee votes yet to be counted
More than 3,000 absentee votes in three counties have yet to be counted, according to data from Edison Media and CBS News. And it's likely they won't be counted until Wednesday.
The estimated number of outstanding votes thus far are:
Greene County -- 203
Washington -- 1,190
Westmoreland -- 1808
That's a total of 3,201 outstanding absentee ballots.
Saccone thanks supporters
Saccone thanked supporters Tuesday night, saying they would all be working into Wednesday.
DCCC claims victory for Lamb
The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared an early victory for Lamb Tuesday night in a statement.
But that could be slightly premature.
Saccone campaign exploring "all legal options"
The Saccone campaign is exploring "all legal options," a consultant for the campaign tells CBS News' Nicole Sganga.
There is no automatic recount law for a race like this under Pennsylvania law, and there can be no recount for an unofficial vote tally. It's unclear what paths his campaign might pursue.
Race heading into Wednesday with no winner
As observers wait for votes to be counted, there is no winner yet heading into Wednesday.
NRCC says race is too close to call, but confident in Saccone
Just before midnight, the National Republican Congressional Committee said the race is too close to call, but that they have confidence Saccone will win the seat. The NRCC stopped short of declaring victory, like the DCCC did.
"This race is too close to call and we're ready to ensure that every legal vote is counted. Once they are, we're confident Rick Saccone will be the newest Republican member of Congress," NRCC Communications Director Matt Gorman said in a statement.
All precincts reporting, but race still too close to call
Elections director Anthony Salvanto says that CBS News continues to characterize this race as too close to call. We're waiting on more absentees to be counted after midnight -- and even then, we doubt it will be clear who has won.
By roughly midnight, 100 percent of precincts had reported, with Lamb still in the lead. Lamb had 49.83 percent of the vote, to Saccone's 49.57 percent.
Lamb: "We did it!"
Lamb took the stage shortly before 1 a.m. Wednesday at his campaign headquarters.
"It took a little longer than we thought, but we did it!" he said.
"You did it!" he added.
Lamb thanked those who had been with his campaign from the beginning. The Democrat emphasized that finding "common ground" was key.
Westmoreland County counts more votes
Westmoreland County reported more votes, including absentees, putting the margin between Lamb and Saccone down to 579 votes, according to CBS News election director Anthony Salvanto.
Results won't come until later Wednesday
Results from the bitterly close special election won't come until later Wednesday.
By 1 a.m., Democrats had all but declared victory, with hundreds of absentee votes outstanding. Saccone would have to win a significant margin of the remaining votes to declare victory.
Saccone to attempt a run in another district if he doesn't win
Saccone will submit petitions on March 20th to run in the 14th congressional district, should he lose his bid in the 18th district, CBS News' Nicole Sganga reports.
Saccone will be in legal meetings all Wednesday -- he is not expected to concede.
Absentee ballots in key county leave Lamb in lead
6:05 a.m.: Unofficial results of the counting of absentee ballots in Washington County, which is considered crucial, have Conor Lamb with 609 votes and Rick Saccone with 547, CBS Pittsburgh reports, enabling Lamb to add slightly to his slim lead.
Saccone not conceding, looking into recounts
A source familiar with the process tells CBS News that the Saccone campaign is not conceding the race and is also not ruling out calling for a recount or even potentially filing lawsuits challenging the result.
At the campaign's request, ballots and machines from all counties on the district will be impounded and sealed so they cannot be changed. This is to prepare for a potential recount.
The Saccone campaign has at least three documented cases of voters being turned away or having issues voting.
- GOP attorneys kicked out of the place in Allegheny County where they were tabulating absentee ballots. They were let back in an hour later but after many ballots were counted.
- They have credible reports of people intending to vote for Saccone at touch screens in Allegheny County, but the machines registered as a Lamb vote and couldn't be changed even though they alerted officials.
- The PA secretary of state website lists new/future congressional map instead of the current one, so when people went to look up their precincts it showed new map -- the campaign has credible reports from voters who didn't know where they were supposed to vote because of this.
These instances -- and possibly others -- are likely to be filed as part of lawsuitWednesday. An announcement is expected in the form of a lawsuit either in federal or commonwealth court. The campaign is still debating who the petitioner will be -- the Saccone campaign, NRCC, or state party.
Some votes still remain late Wednesday
Late into Wednesday, some votes remain to be counted -- although that number is shrinking.