President Donald Trump celebrated Republican Greg Gianforte’s victory in Montana’s special Congressional election all the way from Italy on Friday, telling reporters there that the incoming GOP lawmaker had secured a “great win in Montana.”
The president did not elaborate any further on his remark, made unprompted to the pool of media members traveling with the president on his eight-day, multi-nation international trip.
Gianforte’s win keeps Montana’s lone seat in the House of Representatives under Republican control after Ryan Zinke vacated it to become Trump’s secretary of the interior. The incoming lawmaker won with just over 50 percent of the vote, six percentage points better than Democrat Rob Quist.
The win was not without last minute drama, which arrived on the night before the election when Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault after he reportedly body-slammed a reporter asking a question about the incoming congressman’s position on the House-passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. Gianforte apologized for the incident in his victory speech Thursday night.
In a state that Trump won handily during last year’s presidential election, Gianforte was the beneficiary of significant assistance from high-profile Republicans, including the president and Vice President Mike Pence, both of whom recorded robocalls on behalf of the GOP candidate. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) all sent fundraising emails for Gianforte, who was also boosted by phone-banking efforts from the National Rifle Association.
Both Pence and Donald Trump Jr. also made in person appearances in support of Gianforte.