GOP Montana win may be blip in Democrats’ anti-Trump hopes

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A Montana Republican businessman won the state’s U.S. House seat after being charged with assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election, a victory that may temper Democrats’ hopes for a massive anti-Trump wave next year.

Greg Gianforte apologized late Thursday for attacking a reporter who had asked about the GOP health care bill.

“Last night, I made a mistake. I took an action I can’t take back and I am not proud of what happened,” he said.

Yet Gianforte’s 6 percentage point win paled to President Donald Trump’s 20 percentage point romp in Montana in November, a sign that Republicans will have to work hard to defend some of their most secure seats to maintain control of Congress.

The race ultimately turned on the weaknesses of both Gianforte and his opponent, folk singer and Democrat Rob Quist, making it tough to use as a barometer for the nation’s political mood. Gianforte got 50 percent of the vote, Quist received 44 percent and Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks received 6 percent.

Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault Wednesday night after witnesses said he slammed to the ground a reporter who was asking him questions about the Republican health care bill. A technology entrepreneur who was widely regarded among even Republican strategists as an imperfect candidate, Gianforte could be heard on an audio tape yelling at the reporter, Ben Jacobs of The Guardian.

By the time sheriff’s deputies arrived, more than half of voters had already cast their ballots in the race due to the state’s mail-in voting law. It was difficult to determine on election night to what extent voters who cast a ballot Thursday were influenced by the altercation.

Gianforte had aligned himself with Trump. And the president, in Italy for a G-7 summit, said to journalists after Gianforte’s victory: “Great win in Montana.”

After the altercation Wednesday, Gianforte’s campaign issued a statement blaming the reporter. The Republican candidate canceled television…

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