As Democrats and left-wing media outlets pick over the bones of Thursday’s Montana Special House election, in which boisterous Republican Greg Gianforte comfortably beat Democratic challenger Rob Quist, some are coming to an awkward conclusion — President Trump was a help, not a fatal hindrance, to Gianforte.
Gianforte beat Quist by seven points in a race Democrats had hoped to turn into a referendum on Trump’s first few months in office, and particularly, the unpopular Republican health care bill.
As Gianforte welcomed the president’s support in the days leading up to the election, opponents hoped that Trump’s alleged unpopularity would motivate the Democratic base and turn away moderates — something they would then hope to replicate in the 2018 midterms.
Democrats had also hoped that the last minute twist in which Gianforte allegedly assaulted a UK Guardian reporter — for which Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault — would be the nail in the coffin.
But it was not to be, and an analysis by Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti found that the “Trump effect” was the opposite of Democrats would have hoped. Noting that Gianforte had lost the governor’s race in November, Debenedetti concluded that the Trump robocalls and using his campaign slogans paid off. Under a heading of “Trump was an asset, not a drag,” he said:
For Gianforte, the biggest applause lines of his Thursday night speech came when he mentioned Trump and used his “drain the swamp” slogan. Local Republicans dismissed the idea that the president could drag Gianforte to defeat as preposterous
The state’s Democratic politicians had also noted Gianforte’s belief in Trump.
Everything I see is that Greg Gianforte is trying to make [Trump] completely front-and-center. He might have muttered his name once or twice when he was running against me and now he wants to ‘drain the swamp’ and says, ‘I want to be with Trump every step of the way,’” said the state’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock on Wednesday — nearly seven months after he himself defeated Gianforte.
Debenedetti noted that Quist barely talked about Trump during the campaign, possibly realizing it wasn’t the best strategy to take in the solidly red Treasure State. Trump won the state in November by over 20 points.
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Breitbart News based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY