The Cantor Earthquake

Ken AshfordCongress, Election 2014, RepublicansLeave a Comment

The House Republican leadership, so solid in its opposition to President Obama, was torn apart yesterday by the defeat of its most influential conservative voice, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader.  Cantor, with a 96% conservative rating, was defeated by a tea party candidate, David Brat.

Brat spent a total of $200,000 on his campaign; Cantor spent that much just on steakhouses (actually, he spent $168,637 on steakhouses; overall, he spent $5 million).  And yet, this morning, the results show that Brat beat Cantor 55.5% to 45.5%.

What does it mean?  Well, everybody has an opinion.  There's a lot of gleeful talk on the left, and in the center, about the GOP "eating its own".  The GOP loves to have purity tests so pure that nobody is safe.  What you end up with is a circular firing squad; it is no wonder that an occasional Cantor might fall.

Cantor lost for three reasons: first, he made the error of suggesting that maybe possibly he could work with Obama on immigration reform.  Rule No. 1 of conservative politics is that you never work with the "enemy", even if it is reasonable to do so.  Brat exploited this rare vulnerablility in Cantor. His megaphone was conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham, who criticized Mr. Cantor’s positions on immigration.

Secondly, Cantor ran a bad campaign.  He attacked Brat as a "liberal professor" which didn't ring true to constituents.  Towards the end of the political campaign, Cantor tried to rally the GOP establishment.  Rule No. 2 of conservative politics is that the "establishment" — even the GOP establishment — is bad.  So there was a last minute backlash.

Finally, Cantor was a Jew.  Yup, that always worked against him in those conservative districts.

So what does it all mean?  Well, it's not good news for moderate Republicans — that's for sure.

Most on the left are treating this as good news, since most tea party candidates aren't electable.  Or so is the conventional wisdom.  The thinking goes that some Cantor supporters will stay home, allowing a Democrat to win.  But….. that is unlikely in this district.  Still, disarray in the GOP is good for the left, and most are taking this as something good.