At first glance, the story of how Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in a special House election in Montana grabbed and body slammed Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the UK Guardian, to the floor is the stuff of campaign nightmares. The incident took place the day before the Special Election and Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault. To put the icing on the cake, an audio file exists of the incident, and it was witnessed by a Fox News reporter. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Republican has just thrown the election by losing his cool with an admittedly aggressive reporter.

It is never ok to assault people even if they are obnoxious

To get the obvious issue out of the way, Gianforte should not have attacked the reporter. Journalists are always going to be offensive with politicians, especially conservative Republicans. One does not respond by getting physical. Too many nonviolent ways exist for deflecting the press. Gianforte needs to work on his anger management issues.

Why the assault may not matter

On the other hand, writing this before the election results have been reported, the fact that Gianforte allegedly attacked a reporter may not matter. While the polls have been tighter than one might have thought for a deep red state such as Montana, three-fourths of the voters have already been cast in early voting.

Also, Gianforte’s opponent, Rob Quist, a Cowboy singer, nudist, Bernie Sanders supporter with allegations of tax problems, is hardly a good fit for most states of the union for Congress, not to mention Montana. Finally, Lifezette is reporting that the Fox reporter who witnessed the alleged assault is changing the details of her story.

Initially, she described Gianforte having Jacobs in a choke hold. But in an interview on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, she changed that detail to suggest that Gianforte did not have his hands around the reporter’s neck. It’s just these little changes detail that make people wonder if much to do is being made about very little.

What if Gianforte loses?

If Gianforte loses the election, whether it can be ascribed to the alleged assault or not, Democrats will claim that the beginning of a mighty, political tsunami has started that will sweep Republicans from both houses of Congress. The claim will certainly be overwrought, but it will be made regardless.

What if Gianforte wins?

If Gianforte pulls off a victory, the House Republicans have a potential problem on their hands. It all depends on whether Gianforte is convicted of the charges. A convicted criminal cannot remain a member of the House, which means that Montana is back to where it started and will need another special election. A trial, if it lasts for any appreciative time, would be problematic.

Gianforte will need to do some fancy lawyering to make the charges go away as fast as possible. Even if the case is dismissed or he is acquitted, Jacobs would be well within his rights to file a civil suit. It may be best, from the GOP point of view, for Gianforte to win and then immediately resign.

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