Republicans conceded well before the last 36 hours that the race had tightened to an uncomfortable degree.
Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton called the election at 10:33 pm.
While Quist was outspoken in his opposition to the bill, Gianforte had hedged.
Gootkin said he never considered pursuing a felony charge against Gianforte based on evidence collected after the Wednesday incident. But the New York Times had previously obtained audio of the GOP nominee praising the bill to his donors. It could also bolster recruiting and fundraising for Democrats elsewhere. Quist campaigned in the closing stretch with Sen.
"If the criminal charges are proven true, this would be an outrageous escalation of the recent trend toward elected officials and those seeking elected office obstructing and even, now, assaulting reporters who are merely trying to do their jobs", said Dan Shelley, the incoming executive director of the RTDNA in the statement.
Privately, however, Democrats were skeptical that was possible, even after the altercation between Jacobs and Gianforte.
And both parties also privately grumbled about their candidates. And Quist had plenty of baggage too, with a history of property tax liens and unpaid debts.
Gianforte: The last guy did the same damn thing. The party had already been forced to spend millions of dollars to prop up its nominee in a race being pored over for clues about the national political environment in the tumultuous first months of Trump's presidency.
Awkward entrance: President Trump and Vice President Pence made robocalls for Gianforte, and Donald Trump Jr. was the tech entrepreneur's most high-profile surrogate. "As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, 'I'm sick and exhausted of this!'"
Gianforte also echoed numerous catch phrases that rang through Trump's campaign, promising to "drain the swamp" and "make America great again", a message consistent with his recent candidacy.
More broadly, the Montana election is being scrutinized for clues on how voters will cast their ballots following both Trump's win in November and a seemingly never-ending string of controversies out of the White House.
The alleged assault and battery was witnessed by reporters for Fox News and others. "This manly, obviously studly Republican candidate in Montana took the occasion to beat up a pajama-clad journalist, a Pajama Boy journalist out there". Republicans had to sweat out a closer-then-expected special House election win in conservative Kansas last month. The anti-Trump surge is formidable, but it hasn't swept any Dems into Congress as yet. If Republicans do not demand that of him, we will know for certain that the President's disdain for the media - and the constitution - has spread through the entire party, and that no journalist will ever again be completely safe. If Trump's approval ratings continue to fall, the House will be firmly in play.
She noted, however, that more people are defending Gianforte's actions than might have four or eight years ago, because there is now such a hostile attitude in America toward the press.
And while Democrats may well need a win on the board in order to prove that the protests and marches against Trump can translate at the ballot box, the trendline is in their favor and should be worrisome for Republicans, as the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman noted. Some 83 percent of adults said "the relationship between Trump and the media is generally unhealthy", and almost three-quarters said that the tensions are "getting in the way of Americans' access to important political news". In the Georgia all-party primary in April, Ossoff overperformed by 7 points.