Saccone was perceived to be weak, partly in comparison with Lamb whom some suggested the Democrats had picked out of central casting for his good looks and his articulation.
"This should be a wake-up call", House Speaker Paul Ryan told Republican lawmakers in a closed-door conference, according to a person in the room. Democrats boasted optimistically of an impending wave, and produced a new list of races that suddenly seemed within reach.
Republicans looking for lessons found several.
But in private, Ryan was reviewing campaign finance reports for his most-endangered colleagues in an effort to goose them to action.
To this point, this has been a reliably red district - one President Donald Trump won by about 20 points and Mitt Romney won by 17 points in 2012. Historically speaking, the party out of power usually wins House seats in the first midterm of any president, and Democrats are certainly in range for enough of a swing to regain control of the lower chamber. If Virginia Democrats can find similar candidates, they'll be better off in these rural districts.
"People are so exhausted of the shouting on TV and in our politics", Lamb said when claiming victory Wednesday morning.
Republican officials, who are looking for irregularities, have written to each of the counties in the district to demand that they preserve all ballot boxes for a potential recount, as required under state law. The Associated Press has not declared a victor. "I kept saying, is he a Republican?"
Publicly, Republican officials sought to downplay the outcome as a one-off that won't be replicated as they protect their majority nationwide this fall, especially if voters start to see benefits from the GOP tax bill in paychecks.
The first candidate to make Republicans in the district nervous in almost 15 years, Lamb, 33, is new to politics, though his family isn't.
Should we be surprised that Alabama sent a Democrat (albeit a conservative one) to the Senate, they want to know? Republicans are counting on that ending up in their favor, with Democrats nominating more-liberal candidates who won't survive general elections against GOP rivals. However, the key point about candidates in this race was how different Conor Lamb is from mainstream Democratic Party messaging.
In 2016, President Donald Trump narrowly won the communities that make up this new district, which is substantially less friendly to Republicans than Rothfus' current one.
Trump still wows the crowds. There are establishment "Hillary voters" who reliably support any Democratic nominee, and rebellious pro-Bernie Sanders left populists who only show up to vote when the Democratic candidate is credibly progressive. And the end result didn't actually change the relative position of the candidates at all; Trump ended up netting a pickup of 131 votes, in fact.
A coalition of Republicans and disaffected Democrats, indifferent to America's moral premises, may well secure Trump's re-election.
"Just tell people what you have in your heart and in your plan for them", she told the AP later.
Raymer, like Hughes, says that convincing Bethel Park residents to back Lamb was easier when those voters were upset with the chaos of the Trump presidency.
In the just-completed special congressional race in Pennsylvania, GOP candidate Rick Saccone could not have identified himself more with the president of the United States had he donned a blond wig and chomped a hamburger while tweeting.
Democrats spent over $23 million dollars on the race, in part fighting back at the GOP messaging, but it ultimately went to Republican Rep. Karen Handel. There are plenty of others, they say.
On February 15, for example, almost all Democrats - plus 14 Republican Senators - voted against Trump's reforms. But results so far are mixed.