The Associate Press has projected that despite audio recording of Gianforte slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs into the ground on Wednesday night, Gianforte beat Democratic candidate Rob Quist, securing 50.3 percent of the vote. CNN reports that as of Wednesday night, 259,558 of the 357,596 absentee ballots sent out had been turned in. After the audio of the attack surfaced Wednesday night, the Montana Secretary of State’s office received phone calls from voters asking if they could change their vote, but Montana law counts mailed in ballots as received and therefore cannot be changed.
Recognizing the sheer audacity of a candidate running for office physically assaulting a reporter simply trying to do his job, even House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed something akin to disappointment with Gianforte’s behavior, the New York Times reported. “Should the gentleman apologize? Yeah, I think he should apologize,” Ryan said. “I know he has his own version, and I’m sure he’s going to have more to say, but there’s no call for this, no matter what — on any circumstance.”
Despite remaining silent Thursday as the incident rose to national attention, during his victory speech early Friday morning, Gianforte apologized for the incident, calling the attack a “mistake.”