Pennsylvania 18 was not the blow out predicted. But it should not have been close given that Donald Trump ran up the numbers in that district in 2016. Let me break down for you the spin and the truth.
The Republicans are saying it was close and that's a great thing. They are saying that the Republican, Saccone, was a bad candidate. President Trump had concluded he was a bad candidate before now. Candidates matter. A stronger, better Republican would have done better and even so the race was close. And, by the way, the GOP will say that the Democrat, Lamb, ran as a Republican. He ran as a God fearing Marine patriot.
The Democrat spin is that the GOP is toast, the turn out amounted to midterm level turn out, President Trump won the district by 20%, it is an R+11 district, and momentum is on their side. They will say this is about President Trump.
The reality is closer to the Democrat spin than the GOP. It is true that Saccone was not a good candidate and Lamb is a very telegenic youthful candidate who ran circles around Saccone at the campaign level. But it is also true that this is an R+11 district that Donald Trump won by about 20%. It is also true that the turnout for this special election neared midterm level turnout.
The reality is that a Democratic wave is building in the House. Seats that are suburban and bordering suburban are suddenly in play. The GOP is going to need to be on its A game with a huge and impressive GOTV operation. Unfortunately, the GOP still faces consultant-itis where highly paid consultants get paid whether they win or lose and so have not invested in the tech and data they need to really win. Democrats are hungry for wins and the GOP is not. That's a problem. Also, yes, the President's popularity matters and while you may like President Trump, the most energized voters in America hate him.