On Thursday night, GOP candidate Greg Gianforte won the special election for the at-large vacancy in the House created by the appointment of Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the interior. As Decision Desk HQ reported, Gianforte defeated Democratic candidate Rob Quist 50.5% to 43.7%.
Gianforte’s expected path to the victory had been threatened by the charge filed against him of allegedly assaulting Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian. Although the three largest newspapers in the state rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte, a significant factor in the election was the fact that most of the ballots (268,498) were cast before the incident; a majority of Montana voters generally choose to mail in their votes.
Only hours before the incident with Jacobs, the Gianforte campaign had sent out a fundraising appeal to its supporters, saying the election “will determine whether we pass Donald Trump’s America First agenda or if the fake news media and the national Democrats will win, keeping Obama’s reckless policies in place.”
After the incident, the Helena Independent Record wrote as it rescinded its endorsement, “We are also sick and tired — of Gianforte’s incessant attacks on the free press.”
Summing up why Quist lost, Harry Enten of fivethirtyeight.com stated, “The problem for Quist is that he underperformed his benchmarks by about 5 to 10 points across the board in the early vote. So, even if Quist got the full effect of a normal scandal and the Election Day vote matched the early vote, it would not have been enough for him.”