Treading carefully in a Trump stronghold, Lamb has campaigned beside national Democrats with moderate reputations, like former Vice President Joe Biden, a Pennsylvania native who grew up in Delaware. "Let me tell you, they're energized for hate for our president. I'll tell you some more - my wife and I saw it again today, they have a hatred for God". "We've been at so many meetings with everybody where they're all looking around and saying, 'Man, it hasn't been like this for a while.' And I think that's what it takes to get done what we're trying to get done". Democrats have knocked GOP lawmakers out of a dozen Republican-held state legislative and congressional seats since October.
Inside the White House, Trump and his aides have dismissed suggestions that the contest is a referendum on him and have berated GOP candidate Rick Saccone, 60, for running a sluggish campaign against Democrat Conor Lamb, 33, according to three Republicans who were not authorised to speak publicly. If Lamb pulls off an upset tonight, it won't be without the support of members of union households who stayed home or voted Republican in 2016. A proposed redistricting map drawn by the state Supreme Court shows the 14th District swallowing much of the territory now occupied by the 18th. Despite Donald Trump's decisive victory in the district a year and a half ago, the race remains too close to call.
Saccone stands so closely to Trump that he names only one disagreement: He roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the president backs the New England Patriots.
"This is Trump country", he said. But the group also invested $170,000 on get-out-the-vote digital ads and $160,000 for field staff and polling, according to a source. If turnout in the district mirrors other Democratic surges that took place in 2017 special elections, Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor, holds a 6-point lead over Saccone, a state legislator.
Both the pressure and the high stakes are undoubtedly present in the special election - the Republican Party's desperate measures to keep the district prove conservatives think so, at least. Mary Jo Silvis, a Pennsylvania Republican Party committeewoman, sported a bedazzled Trump 2020 pin and a Rick Saccone button.
Fourteen groups - seven on the GOP side, and seven on the Democratic side - have accounted for over 95% of the spending.
Conservatives are prepping to spin a possible Republican loss in a district President Trump won by 20 points in 2016. The AFL-CIO estimates there are 87,000 votes from union households in Pennsylvania's 18th district, around a fifth of the electorate. This race has looked tight for some time now, even though the district has traditionally been a Republican one.
He's pitched himself as a Southwestern Pennsylvania Democrat with an independent streak, unbeholden to the national party or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Bancroft, who recently retired as a nurse practitioner, is a registered Democrat in Washington County, but Lamb managed to attract her Republican husband, as well. And special elections have been very good for Democrats so far; they have swept a number of state races in red districts in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, plus the Senate race in Alabama.
"This is supposed to be about a congressional race here-what's important is food stamps, Family and Medical Leave-and it's all Trump, Trump, Trump!" says Tony Ross, an unemployed steel worker who ventured to the candy shop to see what the commotion was about. The data folks over at 538 caution that special elections are tough to predict and that the current special election cycle has seen some significant swings toward the Democrats.
James Johnson, 42, had a one-word reason for why he planned to vote for Saccone: "Republican".
"I guess I got a real big change, more than I anticipated", he said.
As is clear from the 18th District race, candidates can stick to the issues all they want, but the airwaves will remain filled with negative ads from outside sources. Trump is in town to stump for him, just as his father, the President, was on Saturday night.