Russia Is On TV, But Health Care Was The Central Issue In Montana’s Election

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BY: Ryan Grim 05.26.17

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When the now-famous Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs approached the now-infamous Greg Gianforte on Wednesday night, he had a specific question he wanted to pose to the Republican candidate for Montana’s open House seat. It was about health care.

Jacobs had been following the race closely, and knew that Democrat Rob Quist, in the race’s final stretch, put health care at the center of his closing argument.

In March, early in the campaign, the Billings Gazette set tone for the race with a close look at Quist’s troubled finances over the years. Montanans may have assumed Quist, a legendary local musician and a rancher, was well off, but his music career never brought him that kind of money. He had been the opening act to the Grateful Dead many times — but never the Grateful Dead.

He told the Gazette that gall bladder surgery gone wrong had derailed his music career and set in motion the string of financial setbacks. The day before the Gazette story ran, House Republicans in Washington had decided to pull their repeal-and-replace bill from the floor, aware they didn’t have the votes to pass it. The problem wasn’t just that support was anemic in Congress. The bill had the backing of just 17 percent of Americans, and GOP leadership appeared happy to move on. “Sorry that didn’t work out,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his best effort to pretend he was mourning the demise of the politically toxic legislation.

But a klatch of House Republicans insisted on bringing the thing back to life. And in Montana, Gianforte decided it would be a wise move to attack Quist on health care. The conservative outlets PJ Media and the Washington Free Beacon dug into a lawsuit Quist filed after the botched surgery and dug out an unusual nugget they saw fit to share with the world: Quist had genital herpes.