Special elections are special in part because, like a Rorschach test or a horoscope, people see in them what they want. So how are Republicans explaining away center-left Democrat Conor Lamb's narrow win in Tuesday's congressional election in conservative southwestern Pennsylvania? In a district President Trump won by 20 points, with a Trumpian candidate, Rick Saccone, who had Trump's in-person support and a $14 million boost from outside GOP groups? Let us count some ways.
1. Lamb basically ran as a Republican.Trump: "[Lamb] said, 'Oh, I'm like Trump. Second Amendment, everything. I love the tax cuts, everything.' ... I said, 'Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.'"
Fox News' Brian Kilmeade: "Lamb's great showing in red district shows Dems the way to Nov. success. Support Republican issues!! He claims to be pro-life, pro tax cut, pro tarriff [sic] and anti Pelosi."
2. Saccone was a terrible candidate.GOP super PAC director Corry Bliss: "The fact is the Saccone campaign was a joke. If we had a candidate who could walk and chew gum at the same time, we would have won the race."
Pennsylvania GOP strategist: "It's a porn 'stache. ... He should have lost the mustache."
3. Washington Republicans bungled the race.Saccone friend Lesa DeMaio: "When the national party got involved and they put out the advertising and everything, it doesn't focus on Rick. Rick is freaking amazing."
4. Trump almost won this for the GOP.House Speaker Paul Ryan: "The president came in and helped close this race and got it to where it is right now."
Fox News' Steve Doocy: "Last week, it looked like Mr. Lamb was going to win by 6 points. ... So something drew it closer together, if you believe in polls. Maybe it was the president's visit."
Trump: "We lifted [Saccone] 7 points up. That's a lot. ... And 7 normally would be enough, but we'll see how it all comes out. It's, like, virtually a tie."