Representative Eric Cantor, R-Va.-7th, will likely not return to the House of Representatives next winter. The Associated Press, and now the Fox News Channel, report he has lost his primary race to challenger David Brat, who has the backing of the Tea Party.
Eric Cantor thumped
With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, Brat has 35787 votes, and Eric Cantor has only 28,631. Thus David Brat has 55 .6 percent of the votes to Eric Cantor’s 44.4%.
Turnout in the Republican primary was very low, one of the lowest turnouts in any primary even in the state of Virginia. Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume speculated that foul weather depressed the turnout. But one of two Virginia 7th District voters CNAV talked to, laughed at that idea. “The weather was perfect!” she said, and described a day of the fairest weather anyone could ask for.
Both these voters expressed surprise, and even shock, that Eric Cantor, of all people, would lose. Eric Cantor is the Republican Floor Leader in the House. He is also a senior member, and sits on several key committees. Both these voters told CNAV that Eric Cantor “can do things for us” that a newcomer cannot do. CNAV asked each one about the Tea Party refrain that they hoped to replace all members of the House, so that seniority would not matter. One voter said that would never happen. The other said she would not care to see that happen.
Eric Cantor, in his concession speech, gave no hint that he would field a write-in campaign in November. But again, Fox News Channel speculated he might. If he does, he’ll have at least one vote. This particular voter, very much an independent, said she had once cast a write-in vote before (in the Governor’s race), and would do so again if Eric Cantor asked her to.
Door-to-door beats robocalling
She didn’t vote in the primary (though the other voter did). She described to CNAV what it was like for ordinary voters during the campaign. Eric Cantor outspent David Brat five-to-one, she said. (That is what this voter saw, though other reports said Eric Cantor spent even more heavily.) He bought advertising on radio and television, and commissioned many, many “robocalls.” This annoyed her. “I never answer robocalls,” she said.
She even suggested Eric Cantor alienated voters with his robocalls. David Brat did not commission any. Instead he and his teams went door-to-door to talk to voters. That impressed her:
Someone willing to come to your door to talk to you, is always better than a recorded voice on the telephone.
Still, she fully expected Eric Cantor to win in a landslide. Accordingly, she did not bother voting. She suspected such complacency might be another reason Eric Cantor lost. (This corroborates the Washington Post story that quoted a Republican strategist as saying Eric Cantor forgot to “tend the weeds in [his] back yard.”)
Tea Party must convince disconcerted voters
The other voter expressed not only shock but dismay. “Eric Cantor has done a lot for us, and I’m going to miss him,” she said. She also worried that David Brat, even if he wins, will do little in the House, precisely because he is junior.
She scathingly referred to the Tea Party positions as “all lies.” She especially rejected the notion that Eric Cantor lost because he wants to grant immigration visas to all comers from points south.
Naturally several activists who had an interest in the Virginia-7th primary would disagree. The immigration-slowdown group Alipac said:
Let this be a lesson to the rest of Congress, especially Republicans who are considering supporting immigration reform amnesty that would devastate and destroy America’s borders, immigration laws, and conservative voter base as well! Today we have proven that the grassroots can prevail against a Republican amnesty supporter even when outspent by more than 10 to 1! Our congratulations go out to our endorsed candidate Dave Brat!
Darla Dawald, of the Patriot Action Network, sardonically remarked,
The Tea Party is “dead,” so I’m not sure how this happened!
Still, David Brat will have a lot of work ahead. He must convince the more than seventy percent of registered Republican voters in the 7th District who did not vote in the primary that he is more than the upstart rabble-rouser that, perhaps, some voters take him for. His door-to-door campaign method might help, and help much. But if he fails, he might find some of those same voters, including at least one of the two CNAV talked to, willing to vote Democratic to stop him.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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