Greg Gianforte won. Now what do Republicans do?

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(CNN) -- Greg Gianforte, less than 24 hours removed from being charged with assault for "body-slamming" a reporter, won the Montana special election on Thursday night.

So, now what?

We know two things for sure.

1. Gianforte will appear in court sometime between now and June 7 to find out whether he will be convicted on a misdemeanor assault charge.

2. Republicans, even if they wanted to, couldn't refuse to seat him. This was litigated in the late 1960s in a case involving Rep. Adam Clayton Powell.

Greg Gianforte and running-mate Rob Quist

Beyond that, there's not much we actually know -- given that it's only 48 hours since the Gianforte chokeslam on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs took place.

But early indications suggest that Republican House leaders have no plans to move against Gianforte -- particularly after he apologized in an election night speech. "Last night, I learned a lesson," Gianforte said. "I made a mistake and I am sorry," Gianforte said.

Even before Gianforte's apology, GOP leaders seemed willing to give him a pass. "I am going to let the people of Montana decide who they want to represent them," House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers also sounded a conciliatory note. "From what I know of Greg Gianforte, this was totally out of character, but we all make mistakes," he said.

It remains to be seen how -- and whether -- Republican views on Gianforte change. There's no question that some Gianforte voters actually backed him because of the confrontation. And that the public's attention span is very, very short -- and we tend to think we will never forget things that we forget the following day.

Those two factors are what House Republicans are banking on. That the audio of Gianforte slamming Jacobs to the ground -- and even the possibility that he will be convicted of a misdemeanor -- will recede in peoples' memory as long as the Montana Republican keeps his mouth shut.

They're probably right. Interest in the race is already fading due to the fact that the frontrunner, Gianforte, won. And Montana is out of the way enough -- in terms of the national conversation -- that without a major next development, it won't likely stay in the national news.

For Democrats, the path forward is also uncertain. A victory in Montana would have been evidence of the anti-Trump movement Democrats insist is sweeping the country. And, given that the national party and its aligned super PACs spent millions on the race, they clearly believed it was a winnable proposition. (The Montana secretary of state's office also says that as a federally elected official, Gianforte can't be recalled.)

This is the third straight special election -- Kansas's 4th district and the Georgia 6th district primary -- where Democrats have failed to secure a victory that looked possible in the closing weeks of the campaign. It now puts even more pressure on Democrat Jon Ossoff to win the Georgia runoff June 20 as a proof point that the wave political handicappers suspect is building is, um, actually building.

Sadly, the fact that Gianforte's assault happened on a reporter also makes it more likely to disappear as a major issue since reporters are about as popular as foot fungus. (Sidebar: For people who cheered Gianforte's slam of Jacobs, ask yourself this: Do you think it's a good thing societally for a reporter to get beaten up for doing his job? How about one human treating another one that way?)

Gianforte will be seated. And, at the moment, it's hard to see Republicans even considering forcing him to resign (or even consider it). The likeliest outcome is that Gianforte will come to Washington and then recede into the backbenches of Congress -- never to be heard from again. And his conduct will have no real-world consequences.