Saturday, May 27, 2017

Republican assailant still won, but margin was 14 points less than Trump's win

Despite the Montana Republican candidate's physical assault against a Guardian newspaper reporter, Greg Gianforte wound up winning anyway by 50% to 44%.  Compare that 6% difference with Trump's winning margin of 20% last November.

An estimated two-thirds of voters had already cast their ballots in early voting before the incident occurred.  There are anecdotal accounts of people calling in to ask if they could change their vote.    The answer was no.

Breakdown of votes in Yellowstone County (the city of Billings):  Gianforte won the early vote by 20 points and the same day vote by 10 points.  And 90% of the total votes in that county were early votes.    Trying to predict how that might extrapolate statewide is only speculative, especially since we have no data to compare demographics of early voters and same-day voters.  But it strongly suggests a robust effect of news of the assault, which polls showed most voters had heard about, perhaps enough to have flipped the results if there had not been early voting.

This extraordinary rage attack by a Republican candidate against a member of the media is being widely discussed.   Opinions range, from supporters saying the reporter "had it coming," to others who take a wider view of the "coarsening" of political discourse in the Trump era.

Rep. Mark Sanford, a South Carolina Republican, said:
“Respectfully, I’d submit that the president has unearthed some demons. . . .  I’ve talked to a number of people about it back home. They say, ‘Well, look, if the president can say whatever, why can’t I say whatever?’ He’s given them license. . . .  People feel like, if the president of the United States can say anything to anybody at any time, then I guess I can too. And that is a very dangerous phenomenon.”
Several people have noted that Gianforte is known for having a thin skin and for easily lashing back.  But let's give him credit for a genuine apology, unlike the "if anyone was offended" kind of non-apology from so many politicians.   Here's what Gianforte said, as reported by The Hill:
"Last night, I made a mistake and I took an action that I can't take back - and I'm not proud of what happened. . . .  I should not have responded in the way that I did and for that I'm sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way and for that, I am sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs."
I don't know whether this was only a press release or whether he actually spoke with Ben Jacobs and apologized personally.   Of course, I would rather he had acknowledged his problem with anger management and dropped out of the race.

He'll have plenty of opportunities in Washington to be besieged by reporters.   Now the whole world will be watching him.    And he will have to meet the voters again to ask for a full term in the 2018 election.


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