[On Thursday], during a private conference call with Republican-leaning lobbyists in Washington, Mr. Gianforte offered a more supportive view of the health bill. Making the case for the "national significance" of the Montana election on May 25, Mr. Gianforte said: "The votes in the House are going to determine whether we get tax reform done, sounds like we just passed a health care thing, which I'm thankful for, sounds like we're starting to repeal and replace."
The day the Republican health care bill reached the House floor last week, Republican Greg Gianforte, the GOP's nominee in Montana's congressional special election, seemed eager to avoid the controversy. Asked for the candidate's opinion on the legislation, Gianforte's spokesperson said the Republican didn't yet have all the facts on the bill and its impact.Voters were told, however, that Gianforte supports lowering premiums and protecting those with pre-existing conditions -- and his party's proposal does the opposite.It was initially seen as evidence of just how politically toxic the Republican legislation had become: in a red state that Donald Trump won by 20 points, a GOP candidate was reluctant to be associated with the bill Republicans were ramming through. But as the New York Times reported, the story turned out to be even worse: on the same day Gianforte was steering clear of the GOP bill in public, he was doing something very different in private.
Imagine that. A GOP candidate saying one thing to voters in Montana, and then saying something else to donors in D.C.Coming soon to a commercial near you.In a way, Gianforte is a curious choice for Montana Republicans. The state's voters just rejected him in a different statewide race six months ago, and though Gianforte has spent several years in his adopted home state, he's also a multi-millionaire from New Jersey.The fact that he's now been caught being candid about health care with lobbyists in D.C. is likely to make his task a little more difficult.Montana's U.S. House seat was held by Ryan Zinke, who left Congress to join Trump's cabinet as Interior Secretary, and many assumed Republicans would have little trouble holding onto the seat. After all, Zinke won this race in the last two elections by 15 points each.But with the political winds shifting in a more progressive direction this year, the GOP's confidence is waning, and Vice President Mike Pence is headed to Montana to campaign for Gianforte this week, and Donald Trump Jr., who's already campaigned for Gianforte once, is reportedly headed back.Gianforte's national finance committee told supporters late last week that the race is within "single digits," with the Republican narrowly leading folk singer and small-business man Rob Quist, who's starting to pick up more Democratic support, and who's proving to be more competitive than the political establishment expected.The election is May 25, and while it's not generating as much attention as the special election in Georgia, it may prove to be just as interesting.