"As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, 'I'm sick and exhausted of this!'" "And we'll let the people of Montana decide what happens tonight".

(AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan, file).

Down the line, that could prevent him from achieving his real goal, which according to Matt McKenna - a longtime Montana politics insider and adviser to Gianforte's opponent Rob Quist - is another crack at the governorship. "This manly, obviously studly Republican candidate in Montana took the occasion to beat up a pajama-clad journalist, a Pajama Boy journalist out there".

Montana has just over 699,000 registered voters.

He said less committed Gianforte supporters could stay home Thursday, or other voters could be motivated to come out for Quist or Wicks.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin - who had donated $250 to Gianforte's campaign - announced he was charging the GOP nominee with misdemeanor assault.

Mr Gianforte prevailed despite being charged on Wednesday night with misdemeanor assault on Ben Jacobs, a political correspondent for the USA edition of the Guardian newspaper, who said the candidate "body-slammed" him during a campaign event in Bozeman.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, said what occurred was "wrong and should not happen". "I made a mistake, and I took an action that I can't take back", he said.

He also apologized to the Fox News team that was present during the incident. Gianforte has strongly embraced Trump throughout the campaign, and the race has been watched closely for signs of whether Democrats can make inroads in GOP areas ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. He said of the politician's account "The only thing that is factually correct.is my name and place of employment". The incident has drawn extra attention to the race to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, considered a bellwether, in its final hours.

At his election night rally in Bozeman on Thursday, Gianforte apologized for his behavior.

The Guardian's Ben Jacobs had tried to ask him about the Congressional Budget Office's score of the House Republicans' health care bill.

Police were called to the scene of Wednesday's incident, at a Gianforte campaign event in the city of Bozeman, and Jacobs was taken to hospital for X-rays. "I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that, I am sorry, Ben Jacobs". Gianforte was quickly charged with misdemeanor assault. By Thursday, more than 200,000 of 700,000 eligible voters had cast early absentee ballots. Authorities said Jacobs' injuries weren't severe enough for a felony assault charge. "I know he has his own version, and I'm sure he's going to have more to say, but there's no call for this, no matter what - on any circumstance".

The Associated Press has called the Montana U.S. special election for Greg Gianforte.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the GOP House candidate in Montana charged with assaulting a reporter is "a wannabe Trump".

Gianforte, a wealthy software executive, lost to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock past year by about 4 points, even as President Trump rolled to a 20-point win in the state.

Mr Gianforte had been favoured to win in Montana, where his party has held the lone House seat for two decades and where Mr Trump won by more than 20 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election. Bernie Sanders, Quist had never run for office before. He stuck to issues that have broad appeal in Montana, such as maintaining and improving access to public land.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, addressed the allegations against Gianforte in a statement.

But Quist had to overcome reports of financial problems that included unpaid taxes, a loan default and legal squabbles with a former band member over royalties and a contractor over payments. And in a special election in Kansas last month, the Democratic nominee overperformed by 14 points.