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Democrats see hope for 2018 in thin GOP victory in Montana

Greg Gianforte celebrates his win over Rob Quist for the open congressional seat at the Hilton Garden Inn, Thursday night, May 25, 2017, in Bozeman, Mont. The Republican multimillionaire Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground. After being declared the winner, Gianforte apologized both to Jacobs and to the Fox News crew for having to witness the attack. (Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans and Democrats alike are finding something to be happy about in the special election for Montana’s only seat in the House.

The Republican candidate, businessman Greg Gianforte, defeated his Democratic challenger, musician Rob Quist, with 50 percent to 44 percent of the vote in unofficial results. That’s underperforming for a Republican in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton lost by 20 percentage points.

Democrats hope lukewarm support for the Republican candidate will bode well for similar races in next year’s midterm elections. If Democrats show strength in Republican-friendly districts, the GOP will have to spend millions defending them.

But Republicans says the Montana victory shows success in their strategy to focus on the Democratic candidate — and the possibility that congresswoman Nancy Pelosi could return as House speaker.

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