How close is the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, to be held March 13? A poll conducted in early January by Gravis Marketing showed Republican Rick Saccone with a 12 point lead over Democratic candidate Conor Lamb. But a late-January poll from Democratic firm DFM Research had Lamb down just three percentage points, and Politico later reported that internal Democratic polls pegged Saccone’s lead in the “mid-single digits.”
Monmouth’s poll of the district, released today, suggests that talk of a close race is more than just wishful thinking from partisan Democrats. Using a special-election turnout model, the Monmouth poll gives Saccone a razor-thin 49–46 lead. Depending on the turnout assumption, Saccone’s lead grows to four or five percentage points: within the margin of error of 5.5 percent. Lamb benefits from an enthusiasm gap: “48 percent of Democrats compared with 26 percent of Republicans say they are following the special election closely,” Monmouth finds.
Unsurprisingly, Lamb’s support base in the district is in the wealthy Allegheny County suburbs. Saccone, meanwhile, enjoys a major advantage in Westmoreland County. More-rural Washington and Greene counties are almost evenly split. Monmouth’s polling director suggests the candidate “may have already maxed out [his] support” in the conservative parts of the district, which could leave him relying on a turnout surge in Allegheny County come election day.
Yet with outside money flooding the airwaves, national political figures visiting the district, and a young Democratic candidate that has the national media salivating, the race that gave every indication of being close now has the polling to match.