Eric Cantor Beat Eric Cantor

By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog

Eric Cantor
Eric Cantor

It’s tempting to blame Eric Cantor’s shocking political demise on Tea Party-driven anti-immigration reform angst, Save Jerseyans, but if we were truly witnessing a wave of some sort, then Lindsey Graham (who Rush Limbaugh nicknamed “Gramnasty”) would be headed for a big law firm after Tuesday night’s results, too, but he’s not. And Steve Lonegan would be holding a press conference outside of Aimee Belgard’s campaign headquarters tomorrow morning…. but he’s not. Same goes for David Larsen. And Matt Bevin for that matter.

So what’s the “x” factor?

There isn’t one. I know, I know, complicated answers are hard for TV analysts, radio hosts, demagogues, spin masters and fundraisers to manipulate for their own ends. But the truth is what it is and I don’t see the utility in glossing over it; it also wouldn’t be fair to David Brat who, having won a race where he had only $230,000 to Cantor’s $5.7 million, he must’ve done something right. Right? Still…

Cantor wasn’t aided by externalities. For example? The Virginia GOP still hasn’t recovered its game. This once deeply-red state now has a Democrat in the Governor’s mansion and both U.S. Senate seats while clinging to a narrow one seat advantage in the state senate. Barack Obama carried the state twice. Simply put, the Virginia Republican Party needs to figure out how to win in Virginia again. It didn’t happen overnight; the long slide began with Jerry Kilgore in 2005 and culminated with Ken Cuccinelli last fall (and I don’t care how close it was, since “close” only really counts in horse shoes and hand grenades). Against this backdrop, it’s not surprising that Eric Cantor, for all of his money, suffered for lack of the kind of ground game that a healthy state party would ordinarily extend one of its incumbents.

Other general factors include, but are not limited to, the Old Dominion’s damnable open primaries (allowing at least some Dems to meddle), Cantor’s penchant for focusing too much time and energy on palace intrigue in D.C. and not enough, perhaps, on his position at home, a woefully misguided strategy of demonizing his opponent as a “liberal college professor” when there’s no indication that he was anything of the sort (sound familiar?), and even the fact that the district was recently redrawn with more conservative voters/areas included, making a challenge from Cantor’s right more viable.

Illegal Immigration SignBut in the end, Save Jerseyans, as is often the case when a long-term incumbent goes down, Eric Cantor defeated Eric Cantor.

You don’t lose 8,000 supporters from your prior cycle’s primary vote total because of cross-party voting or one weak messaging angle. You also don’t lose 8,000 people over spending $168,000 in campaign cash at steak houses, although I’d humbly wager that that behavior is symptomatic of a campaign (and a candidate) that’s fatally lost its focus.

Pride always comes before the fall…. and steak, too, apparently…

Which brings us back to immigration. Huh?? Let me speak! There are a lot of conservatives out there like your Blogger-in-Chief who (1) would support an immigration compromise IF, and only (2) if the broken spigot of illegal immigration is repaired. Expired visas accounted for and border perimeters protected. Laws enforced! And IF (another huge condition) I was confident that we had a commander-in-chief who would stop letting hardened criminals out of jail.

Cantor and other members of the leadership were working on one such compromise at least up until Tuesday. My question: why? Why would you compromise today, five months from when your party is favored to take back the U.S. Senate and your bargaining position will be strengthened, and hand the President and his dysfunctional government a rhetorical victory? But one which wouldn’t help the country because it’d resemble another 80’s style amnesty bill that only exacerbated the problem?

Answer: I can’t give you one! ‘Cause it doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, folks. Maybe they thought just appearing to do something about it would make the party look good? Or perhaps they truly believed it was the right thing to do? Was it naked hubris? Just too many years playing the inside baseball game to the point where affinity for process overwhelms basic common sense?

My theory: I think a critical mass of conservatives who aren’t necessarily affiliated with the Tea Party (like yours truly) felt less-than-sympathetic towards Cantor’s fate because of it. The silent GOP conservative majority knows pragmatism goes both ways; we’re tired of self-serving martyrs, but we also have little patience for the tactically-challenged. Or blind. Whatever.

It’s the closest thing to a magic “x” factor explanation you’re going to find today, or at least a lot closer to an answer than Mr. Brat’s $230,000…


6 thoughts on “Eric Cantor Beat Eric Cantor

  1. The First thing that I thought last night when I heard about this result was that Cantor must have been lacking a ground game. A lot of Republicans outside of the Tea Party are not fans of some of the immigration compromises and no doubt Cantor’s role in those negotiations played some role in his defeat, though not as much as the conservative inside the Beltway folks would have you believe. Candidates and organizations survive by getting people out to vote. Cantor, for all his recognition, failed to get his voters out, lost and deservedly so. Plus, the $168k in steak houses sounds like he has Rob Andrews’ finance guy handling his campaign books. Plus, and perhaps a tip to the Tea Party and Establishment folks alike, when a candidate acts like Dave Brat, and conveys his message in an upbeat, positive fashion, you are going to persuade more people than when you are nasty and negative (e.g. Steve Lonegan).

  2. Simply put….this country is divided by many groups….the uninformed, the sheeple who follow their Party no matter what, and the “just sick of all politicians” group. I think the “just sick of all
    politicians” group is going to take the lead. They want new, fresh faces of fiscal conservatives. They don’t have to be called “tea party” candidates, but that is who the tea party wants to see win these seats. No more Incumbents thinking they deserve to be where they are. PROVE that you deserve to be where you are. Tea Party, Republican….just take a stand, tell the people what you intend to do, stop spending, stop raising taxes, stop the entitlement programs, have an immigration plan that FIRST secures the borders. Then, and only then, should there be ANY considerations for illegals that are here. Then, it’s a complicated issue. In the end, these people broke the law. The left has this thought process that says that college loans should be forgiven. Mortgages should be forgiven. Illegals should be forgiven. What about the people who did things the right way? Signed a promisary note and fulfilled their obligation? Came to this country legally? What about them?

  3. You are right Matt, if only he pretended to be more Tea partyesque like Macarthur did he would have won. He did not play the game too well, did he?

  4. The results of the Cantor loss, I believe was a result of liberal policies making their way into the Republican party. The win for Graham might be because the other 4 tea party candidates diluted the opposition vote. Lonegan’s loss could be that Steve are a lot of enemies instead of building coalitions. Brat stayed on message and made friends with his message. Simple common sense solutions with the focus on the taxpayer paid off. A lesson for those who are running against intrenched politicians and ring republicans. Maybe the Republican candidates need to read and follow the national platform and stop spreading progressive ideas.

  5. While it’s true Cantor didn’t run a great race, this was in great part about immigration. The race became about illegal immigration while, in other races around the country, it was played down.

    Even Graham didn’t run in SC talking about immigration reform. The media virtually ignored it in the North Carolina races and the establishment, pro-Chamber candidates won. When there is a viable candidate running and when immigration becomes a focus, amnesty candidates will lose.

    To directly answer your question about how did Graham win in SC, besides the fact that he didn’t brag about immigration reform, there was no viable opposition candidate. Also, he has been an ardent foil to Obama and SC voters like that and either give him a pass on amnesty or they have been made to believe what Graham wants is not an amnesty.

    Immigration reform – i.e. amnesty – was played down by the media and his portrayal that he is simply trying to expand the Republican voter base stood.

    There seems to be some confusion but illegal immigrants can’t vote and native-born Hispanics aren’t as concerned about amnesty as Mr. Graham thinks. Polls show that immigration is not one of the top issues of concern for Hispanics, legal Hispanic citizens who can vote that is.

    Conventional wisdom seems to be that Republicans can and will get Hispanic support if they once again provide an amnesty. The last time an amnesty was granted was under the administration of Ronald Reagan in 1986 and in 1988 Republican George H.W. Bush got just 31 percent of the Hispanic vote.

    There are some indications that “It is not immigration policy that creates the strong bond between Hispanics and the Democratic party, but the core Democratic principles of a more generous safety net, strong government intervention in the economy, and progressive taxation.” But that goes ignored by the media and politicians like Mr. Graham when talking about how to deal with illegal immigrants.

    I guess it’s a moot point for now after the incumbent majority leader, who supports Graham’s amnesty plans, lost his primary. Not only did Rep. Cantor outspend his opponent by $5 million but it’s the first time that an incumbent majority leader has ever lost a primary. NBC’s Chuck Todd told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that Rep. Cantor’s defeat in the Republican primary killed any chance of “immigration reform” this year.

    If immigration reform means that all those illegal immigrants flooding the borders are allowed to stay and if immigration reform means that we have to absorb all the criminals that have come into the United States, I say “good riddance” to immigration reform.

    Pundits, pollsters, politicians and illegal immigration advocates act as if there are only two alternatives: either round them all up in some mass deportation or let them all stay. A middle option of enforcing E-Verify and Attrition through Enforcement is probably the best way to go. But certainly, those who came here illegally should not be allowed to stay and even get a special pathway to citizenship. Actually anyone who came here illegally or illegally overstayed a visa should never be allowed to be a citizen and there should be no birthright citizenship for their children.

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