All eyes on Montana [UPDATED: Gianforte wins]

The polls closed in Montana closed a little less than an hour ago. Early returns in the congressional race between Fightin’ Greg Gianforte and Singin’ Rob Quist appear to be slightly favorable to Gianforte, the Republican. However, the early counting may be unduly weighted towards early voters — those who voted before Gianforte beat up Reportin’ Ben Jacobs. Thus, it’s way too early to draw any conclusions about how this race will go.

What would I like to see happen? I’d like to see Gianforte prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished accordingly. Tight political races are grueling and partisan lefty reporters are often annoying. But these realities don’t excuse Gianforte’s assault (if that’s what this was, as seems to be the case).

I’d also like to see Gianforte win this race. In my view, the nation and the people of Montana will be better served by a conservative congressman with serious anger management issues than by a Democrat.

I’d also like to see the obnoxious Jacobs have to pay for his own drinks. If Gianforte loses, he may never again have to pay for one.

UPDATE: It’s still too early to call the race, but things look pretty good for Gianforte. He holds a five point lead with almost half of the vote counted.

If Gianforte wins by about this margin or, indeed, anything less than 10 points, Democrats will try to spin this as a bad sign for the GOP. This seems to be the line at FiveThirtyEight.

I don’t see it that way. Gainforte was a bad candidate. His assault on Jacobs was only the latest, if most dramatic, indicator of this. A five to ten point win seems about right given Gianforte’s problems and the fact that Democrats win statewide races in Montana more than occasionally.

Here’s the thing. The Democrats can’t win control of the House by picking up seats held by cabinet nominees whom the GOP replaces with mediocre of bad candidates (much less by losing these races by “smaller than expected” margins). They have to defeat incumbents.

I’m not saying they can’t accomplish this. The history of mid-term elections suggests they can. If the GOP isn’t a little worried, the party is deceiving itself. But if the Democrats think races like the one in Montana signal good times ahead, they may be doing so too.

LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE A WINNER: It’s Gianforte according to at least one “decision desk”. His lead is now eight points with about 60 percent of the vote counted.

Kudos to John Hinderaker for predicting Gianforte’s win on our VIP Live show earlier tonight.

John is on a prediction roll. Become a VIP member now, before he cools off.

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