The Republican candidate in today’s Montana US House special election, Greg Gianforte, finds himself in hot water on polling day.
Last night, The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs alleged that Gianforte “body slammed” him and broke his glasses. In a statement, the Gianforte campaign said that Jacobs barged into the candidate’s office, at which time they had an incident. The campaign blamed Jacobs’ “aggressive behavior” for the event.
This story received a great deal of social media attention on Wednesday night. The expectation is that this will continue through election day.
Montana Special Election: Background
Republican congressman Ryan Zinke resigned earlier this year to become Donald Trump’s interior secretary. The vacancy for the state’s only US House seat will be filled today. Republican Greg Gianforte faces Democratic candidate Rob Quist, a first-time candidate. The Republicans have held this seat continuously since the 1996 election.
Gianforte owned a consistent lead in public opinion polls, though not all of them rose into double digits.
Waiting and Seeing With Greg Gianforte
There is no time to be able to measure the impact of this incident, whether it happened as Jacobs or Gianforte described. If it were to negatively impact Gianforte, the night before might not be the “maximum damage” time. Some who may vote tomorrow morning might only just be finding out about it. Furthermore, Montana has early voting, and that eliminates part of the electorate from influence.
This will get significant media play, and already has. Had it taken place two or three days before the election, however, that could have been worse for the candidate. Stories like this take a few days to marinate among the public.
The alleged incident could impact the race, but unless it’s asked in an exit poll, there will be no way to know the true extent. Were Quist to win, it cannot necessarily be attributed to Wednesday night’s events. Likewise, if Greg Gianforte wins comfortably, it cannot be assumed that Montana voters did not care. A few voters may not know about it, and others may not have time to form an opinion.
Late Update: What Happened With Greg Gianforte and This Election?
Those discovering this after the election may be aware that he won. Gianforte claimed 49.7 percent of the vote, compared to Quist’s 44.1. Voter turnout was 54 percent, which some may see as unusually high for a special election.