Democrat Ron Quist got 43.4 percent of the vote and a Libertarian got the rest.
Some 70 percent of the votes had been cast in early voting before Gianforte attacked Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian. Gianforte went ballistic and pummeled Jacobs because he twice asked him for a comment on the Congressional Budget Office report on the impact of the health care bill approved by the House. Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault.
There's some indication Quist might have narrowed the margin slightly in election day voting, but the win was still not a runaway in a district Donald Trump carried by 20 points.
This was the news: Gianforte, who went into hiding after his assault of Jacobs, apologized at his victory speech Thursday night amid a crowd that had been mocking the reporter.
In his acceptance speech, Gianforte apologized by name to Ben Jacobs, the Guardian reporter who accused the Republican of "body-slamming" him and breaking his glasses.
"When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it," Gianforte told his supporters at his Election Night rally in Bozeman. "That's the Montana way."
Actually, the Montana way — at least the Gianforte way — was to initially blame Gianforte's attack on a badgering liberal reporter and to claim the reporter had initiated the physical violence.
An apology after the fact is no apology. Gianforte was a coward and his staff liars.
Real men don't beat people they don't like.
* Republicans knew they were in trouble. Dark money ads attacking Quist were huge. The outside Republican sources outspent the Democrat something like $5.6 million to $600,000 to hold a Republican seat that was theirs presumptively against a Democratic candidate with many flaws.
* Gianforte NEVER answered a question about the health care bill approved without a single Democratic vote. He WILL be asked again about the bill and the CBO score. He can't hide forever. Or throttle every reporter who asks the question.
* The health care bill is toxic. This is why Arkansas Republican congressmen are avoiding it as much as possible, save Sen. Tom Cotton's famous town hall meeting. U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock, where are you?
Gianforte still faces the assault charge. He should be convicted and get the usual deferred sentencing provided in such misdemeanor cases. Or will he return at trial to his staff's excuse that Ben Jacobs made him do it by invading his space with a tape recorder?
You don't get to rob a bank and then get acquitted because you apologized.
Don't expect Republicans in the House to object to seating someone who assaulted a reporter or to censure him for doing so. The people of Montana have spoken. Eloquently.
UPDATE: The final count had it Gianforte 50.2 and Quis5t 44.1. Analysts think the margin is good news for Democrats, in keeping with evidence for a potential "wave" election thanks to dissatisfaction with Republican work on the health bill and Donald Trump. A Republican won this race in 2016 by 16 points.