Montana's Big House Race Takes a Crazy Turn
But it's possible most ballots were cast before candidate's altercation
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2017 1:02 PM CDT
A file photo of Greg Gianforte, facing camera.   (AP Photo/Matt Volz, File)
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(Newser) – We'll know as early as Thursday night whether Montana Republican Greg Gianforte's disastrous campaign appearance Wednesday will cost him a House seat and thus give Democrats a rare victory in a red state. Gianforte faces misdemeanor assault charges after he allegedly body-slammed a reporter asking him about health care, and he's facing a barrage of criticism at home and nationally. House Speaker Paul Ryan, for one, called it unacceptable behavior and said Gianforte should apologize, notes the Hill. Developments:

  • Rescinded: Three of Montana's biggest papers took back their endorsements: The Billings Gazette ("we're at a loss for words"), the Missoulian ("an act of terrible judgment"), and the Helena Independent Record ("we cannot condone that kind of violence").
  • One big qualifier: Early voting is popular in Montana, and NBC News points out that up to two-thirds of votes in the race may have been cast before the altercation took place.
  • Closely watched: The special election for the state's lone House seat had been closer than expected even before the controversy, with Democrats hoping to make it a referendum on President Trump and the GOP's efforts to replace ObamaCare. Politico looks at the potential impact on races in 2018 and 2020.

  • Witness: Gianforte's altercation was with reporter Ben Jacobs of the Guardian, and Fox News' Alicia Acuna backs up his allegations in a first-person account here. "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him." (Gianforte's statement, blaming "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist," is here.)
  • Common sentiment: One main line of criticism of Gianforte is along the lines of this tweet from GOP pollster Frank Luntz: "If you're running for public office and don't like 'recorders shoved in your face,' you’re gonna have a bad time."
  • Entrepreneur vs. folk singer: The incident has put new attention on Democrat Rob Quist, "a folk singer turned populist" with no political experience. See this Rolling Stone feature. Gianforte, for his part, is a millionaire tech entrepreneur who once vied for the governor's seat. See CNN.
  • AHCA: Beyond the sensational particulars of Wednesday's incident, it highlights just how big of an issue the GOP's American Health Care Act is for Republicans in vulnerable districts, writes Tara Golshan at Vox. They should expect the questions about its impact to continue.
  • The voting: Polls close at 10pm EDT. When the race might be called is anyone's guess at this point.

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