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"Truly, what divides Republicans pales in comparison to what divides us as conservatives from the Left and their Democratic Party," Eric Cantor said in his speech announcing his intention to step down as House Majority Leader.
Cantor was right about that. And that's why House Republicans today voted to replace Eric Cantor with someone who is, for all intents and purposes, like Eric Cantor:
Breaking: McCarthy elected majority leader— Robert Costa (@costareports) June 19, 2014
McCarthy, for the record, was Cantor's pick for the job:
It's hard to come up with ways in which Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who previously served as House Republican Whip, differs from Cantor. They both want to cut taxes. They both voted for the Ryan budget. They both want to repeal Obamacare. And, for all the talk of Cantor's defeat being about immigration reform, McCarthy has basically the same position on immigration reform: he's abstractly for immigration reform, but he's not going to bring any solution to the problem up for a vote.
Which is probably as it should be. When the conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru dove deep into polls of tea party supporters, he was comforted by what he found. "Tea party advocates already believed the same things that regular Republicans did. They basically were regular Republicans, just, if you will, more so. The differences between the tea party and 'establishment Republicans' have largely concerned style and attitude rather than program and ideology."
There was a lot of talk about what Republicans should learn from Cantor's primary defeat. But Cantor is one of very, very, very, very few incumbent Republicans who lost his primary fight. The Republican Party would be making a big mistake if it decided to sharply change course based on 36,000 hard-to-read votes in a primary election in Virginia's 7th District. McCarthy's elevation shows they're not making that mistake.
Ezra Klein says nothing much will change as a result of Eric Cantor's primary defeat, because the Republican Party was already committed to a strategy of maximum opposition. If you like your political points made in the form of satirical cable television, Jon Stewart offers a similar argument here.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that he'd step down as House Majority Leader effective July 31. The GOP's new leadership elections will be held next week, on June 19.
Cantor repeatedly dodged questions about the political implications of his defeat, saying "I'm gonna leave the political analysis to y'all." But he downplayed the idea that the GOP faced serious divisions. "Truly what divides Republicans pales in comparison to what divides us as conservatives from the left and their Democratic Party," he said. "I hope that all Republicans will put minor differences aside and help elect a Republican House and Senate."
On immigration, an issue where challenger Dave Brat attacked him for being a flip-flopper, Cantor argued that his position has never changed — that the system needs reforms, that he opposed the president's approach, and that reform should be done "one step at a time." He reiterated his support to "see the issue of the kids addressed that didn't break any laws and came here unbeknownst to them" — a position Brat criticized him for during the campaign.
When asked if he had a preferred candidate to succeed him as Majority Leader, Cantor said that if his friend and fellow Young Gun Kevin McCarthy chose to run, he "would make an outstanding majority leader and I will be backing him with my full support."
You can watch the full video of Cantor's press conference below, via RollCall.com:
RollCall.com's stream of the press conference is above.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is toast. In an unprecedented upset that nobody foresaw, the House majority leader was defeated last night when 36,000 of his 758,000 constituents voted for Tea Party candidate David Brat in the Republican primary. A House Majority Leader hasn't lost in a primary since they created the position in 1899, so commentators are now scrambling to analyze what Cantor's loss says about American politics, but the explanation for what happened is much smaller than the event itself.
Eric Cantor will announce later today that he'll step down as House Majority Leader, effective July 31, reports the Washington Post.
The decision ensures that the contest to succeed Cantor will play out soon. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, a good friend of Cantor's and part of his "Young Guns" group, is next in line. But McCarthy's close association with the existing leadership team might create an opening for a more conservative challenger.
Accordingly, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, long considered a rival to Cantor, announced that he was "prayerfully considering" a leadership bid on Tuesday. And today, the Post's Robert Costa reports that Hensarling is "whipping votes vs. McCarthy, making a real play" — and that he has already gained the "blessing" of Jim Jordan, an influential leader of the party's conservative faction.
Politico has reported that another conservative candidate from Texas, Rep. Pete Sessions, is making "an aggressive play," and had sent out a mass text message Tuesday night asking for support.
Why did House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lose his primary to a little-known challenger on Tuesday? Typically, Washington has a conventional wisdom ready for a question as big and obvious as that one. But since virtually no one predicted Cantor's loss, pundits and politicos of all stripes are scrambling for a way to explain why this thing they never thought could happen was actually obvious all along. Here are some of the explanations they've come up with:
Brat ran as an anti-immigration hardliner, and argued that Cantor would give amnesty to unauthorized immigrants. "The central policy issue in this race has become Cantor's absolute determination to pass an amnesty bill," he told Breitbart News days ago. "Cantor is the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty." In response, Cantor moved to the right on the issue and argued that he was protecting the US from the "Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty."
After Cantor lost, Mark Murray of NBC News wrote that Cantor was "a casualty of immigration reform." However, since Senator Lindsey Graham, who not only supported but passed an immigration bill, managed to overwhelmingly win his primary the same night, it's hard to say that immigration reform alone can end a top Republican's career.
At the New Republic, John Judis writes that Brat also campaigned on an anti-corporate, anti-Wall Street platform. "All the investment banks in the New York and DC — those guys should have gone to jail. Instead of going to jail, they went on Eric's rolodex, and they are sending him big checks," Brat said.
Judis argues that many of Brat's immigration-themed attacks on Cantor were framed in terms of big business. "Eric is running on the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable principles," Brat said. "If you add 40 million workers to our labor supply, what will happen to the wage rate for the average American?"
All politics is local — especially House politics. So Jon Ward of the Huffington Post finds the roots of Cantor's loss in a simmering feud between local conservative activists and the Virginia GOP's establishment.
The activists wanted the party's candidates to be chosen not in primaries, but in conventions, which they believed would result in more conservative nominees. They took over the party's central committee in 2012, and eventually, Cantor and other establishment figures decided to fight back. They did so in part by trying to drop local activists from convention delegate lists, as blogger Steve Albertson explains here. "One Virginia GOP operative said that the fight over the central committee was 'all of' the reason Cantor lost," Ward writes.
Almost immediately after Cantor was chosen as majority leader, DC insiders speculated about the possibility that he could overthrow Boehner as Speaker with the support of conservatives. But the relationship between Cantor and ideological activists has deteriorated since then. 'He and his staff have repeatedly antagonized conservatives. 'One conservative recently told me that Cantor's staff were the "biggest bunch of a**holes on the Hill,"' Erick Erickson wrote at Redstate.
Over time, Cantor began to back Boehner's policies more fully — which tied him to a leader who had frequently disappointed activists. "Conservatives came to view Cantor as at best unreliable, at worst an outright enemy," writes Dave Weigel. At TNR, Brian Beutler attributes this rising antagonism to Cantor's own political strategy of playing to the right, writing, "He created expectations that almost nobody serving at a high level of congressional leadership could meet." Yet rather than organized outside groups, it was mainly talk radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin who backed Brat's challenge — showing again the outsized influence that medium has on the right.
Members of the House are elected to represent a particular district, and they're expected to put that district first. So there's a danger for incumbents who are too closely identified with Washington and party leadership. "Some GOP strategists said Cantor lost touch with his district as he focused more on his national leadership role," writes the Washington Post's Paul Kane. Erickson concurs, writing, "Cantor lost his race because he was running for Speaker of the House of Representatives while his constituents wanted a congressman."
The New York Times wrote that Cantor "was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented and more conservative." Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report told the paper, "Part of this plays into his religion. You can't ignore the elephant in the room." Matt Brooks, president of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told Politico that Cantor's loss was "one of those incredible, evil twists of fate that just changed the potential course of history."
Cantor's district has about 758,000 residents — yet only about 65,000 turned out to vote in the primary, and 36,000 of them voted for Brat. "If the results point to one clear culprit, it's Cantor's campaign — and, in particular, his get-out-the-vote operation," Ezra Klein writes. "Cantor almost certainly had more than 36,000 supporters in his district. But he didn't turn more than 36,000 of his supporters out to the polls. And that's why he lost."
Eric Cantor wasn't beaten by the Tea Party. He wasn't rejected by Republicans. He was beaten by 36,000 of the roughly 65,000 people who voted in last night Republican primary in Virginia's 7th congressional district.
Cantor's loss last night came at the hands of about 5 percent of his constituents. It came at the hands of about 9 percent of the total number of people who voted in the district's 2012 congressional election. It came at the hands of about 16 percent of the people who voted for Cantor in that election.
And though Cantor's defeat is national in its effects, less than three-hundredths of 1 percent of the people who voted in the 2012 House elections voted against Eric Cantor last night.
There is no grand ideological lesson to draw out of those results. They don't say what Americans want, or what Republicans want, or even what Tea Party conservatives want. They don't reveal the true politics of immigration reform (particularly on a night when Senator Lindsey Graham easily beat back a primary challenge) or whether the Tea Party is a live wire or a spent force in American politics.
There are no grand lessons about the schisms in the Republican Party in those results. As Ben Domenech writes in the Transom, "this race was not about the Tea Party — Dave Brat may have been backed by voters sympathetic to the Tea Party, but not by any significant organization, money, or groups."
It's not even clear the results say much about Cantor's relationship with his constituents. RedState's Erick Erickson says: "Cantor lost his race because he was running for Speaker of the House of Representatives while his constituents wanted a congressman." But internal polls showed Cantor up by more than 30 points in his district. It's possible that the majority of Republicans in Virginia's 7th District wanted Cantor to win and just never considered the idea that he could lose. As for "his constituents," barely any of them voted on Tuesday.
If the results point to one clear culprit, it's Cantor's campaign — and, in particular, his polling and get-out-the-vote operations. Cantor almost certainly had more than 36,000 supporters in his district. But he didn't turn more than 36,000 of his supporters out to the polls. He may not have even known he needed to worry about how many of his supporters would go to the polls. The Washington Post reports that "as late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls."
"That's becoming the real lesson of the 2014 primary season," Domenech writes. "Good candidates win, bad candidates lose." Last night Cantor proved himself a bad candidate running a bad campaign. And that, above all else, is why he lost.
Q&A: We'll be opening up the comments on this post from 1-2pm ET and Ezra and other members of the Vox team will answer your questions about Cantor's loss and what's next for the House of Representatives.
The Democratic-leaning pollster Public Policy Polling went into Eric Cantor's district yesterday, on the eve of Cantor's surprise defeat at the hands of challenger Dave Brat. They found that Cantor himself was unpopular among registered voters: 63 percent of all registered voters disapproved of his job performance, and his net approval among registered Republicans was -6 percentage points.
But the poll also described an immigration reform proposal similar to the bill that passed the Senate last year, and asked voters whether they supported it. The results might surprise you. From Politico's writeup of the poll:
About 72 percent of registered voters in Cantor's district polled on Tuesday said they either "strongly" or "somewhat" support immigration reform that would secure the borders, block employers from hiring those here illegally, and allow undocumented residents without criminal backgrounds to gain legal status - three key tenets of an overhaul[...]
Looking just at Republicans in Cantor's district, the poll found that 70 percent of GOP registered voters would support such a plan, while 27 percent would oppose.
Obviously, because both the pollster and the group commissioning the poll (the liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change) are left-leaning, it's worth taking that poll result with a grain of salt. (The poll also said that immigrants would receive "legal status" rather than "citizenship.")
Most importantly, Public Policy Polling was talking to all registered voters. The voters who booted Cantor out yesterday were the ones motivated enough to show up for a Republican primary — that's definitely a self-selecting group, and one likely to have stronger (and more conservative) feelings than other voters.
But there are actually older polls of Republican voters that say the same thing: when conservatives are asked about a proposal that looks like the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill, but doesn't include the word "amnesty," they're broadly supportive. An analysis of polling by FiveThirtyEight last year showed that, as long as the poll question specified that immigrants would have to fill certain requirements (like paying back taxes or passing a background check), an average of 72 percent of registered Republicans supported the plan.
OpenSecrets' breakdown of Eric Cantor's campaign spending reveals that it spent $168,000 on steakhouses. His opponent only spent $200,000 in total:
David Brat's work at Randolph-Macon College gives one more clue to who he is. Aside from chairing the economics department, he is director of the BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program. In this program, underwritten by the bank BB&T's charitable foundation and inaugurated in 2008, colleges teach a curriculum that promotes free-market economics, and notably, the ideas of Ayn Rand.
Unless students (i.e., future leaders, teachers, professors, etc.) learn the principles that underlie a free society, the United States will continue to move toward statism and economic decline. The believers in "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" must retake the universities, or America will ultimately become a second-tier country with a dark future. That is the context in which BB&T began its program "The Moral Foundations of Capitalism."
Allison added that he was frustrated intellectuals had "dismissed" free-market economic ideas. This is no casual cause for Allison; he is the president and CEO of the Cato Institute and also sat on the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute, a think tank that promotes the objectivist writer's ideas. Allison adds in this article that Atlas Shrugged was usually included in the curriculum for the program.
According to Allison, under the program universities received $50,000 to $200,000 per year over the course of 10 years of teaching the courses.
Not that all universities happily accepted the BB&T money. The American Association of University Professors has criticized this sort of arrangement of payment in exchange for teaching a particular curriculum. With this in mind, some colleges started questioning how they accept these sorts of funds and how it might affect academic freedom, according to a 2010 AAUP article.
This isn't to say Brat is a Rand disciple himself. As Zack Beauchamp wrote earlier tonight, the National Review wrote in a piece on Brat that while "isn't a Randian," he is influenced by her writings and philosophy and "appreciates Rand's case for human freedom and free markets."
Corrected. This article originally misstated the AAUP as the American Association of University Presidents.
Dave Brat, an economics professor from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, came out of nowhere to defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary Tuesday. Who is Brat?
1) Brat was running as an anti-immigration hardliner. "The central policy issue in this race has become Cantor's absolute determination to pass an amnesty bill," Brat told Breitbart News days ago. "Cantor is the No. 1 cheerleader in Congress for amnesty." He indicated that Cantor was partly responsible for the child migrant crisis, because he had indicated support for legislation that would have legalized the status of unauthorized children. "Once you announced that kids are welcome, they're going to head in," Brat said. Cantor responded to Brat's accusation by sending out his own anti-amnesty campaign literature:
2) Brat co-authored an analysis of Ayn Rand. According to his CV, Brat co-wrote and presented "An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand" in 2010. "Brat says that while he isn't a Randian, he has been influenced by 'Atlas Shrugged' and appreciates Rand's case for human freedom and free markets," Betsy Woodruff wrote in the National Review.
3) Brat cancelled key meetings with conservative outside groups because of exams. Past successful conservative primary challengers have relied on support from well-funded outside groups. But when Brat was supposed to travel to DC and attend both Grover Norquist's breakfast with conserative activists and a similar lunch named after the late operative Paul Weyrich, he had to cancel at the last minute. His campaign manager told the Washington Post's Robert Costa, "He had school stuff to take care of. It's the week before finals."
4) Cantor raised 25 times as much money as Brat did. The House Majority Leader raised nearly $5.5 million in this election cycle, according to OpenSecrets. But Brat raised a mere $206,000, according to the most recent reports. Cantor's campaign spent over $168,000 just at steakhouses — which appears to be more than Brat spent on his entire campaign.
5) Brat's opponent this fall will be a professor from the same college. Amusingly enough, the winner of the Democratic nomination for Cantor's seat is Jack Trammell, a sociology professor and director of disability services at Randolph-Macon College. Trammell has put forth an education-focused platform calling for student loan forgiveness, and reform of special education and college access. According to his website, "Jack's history with the Democratic Party goes back to his days at Grove City College, where he experienced a de factor [sic] ban in the school newspaper due to his Democratic views."
6) Brat's students love him — and think he's hot. RatemyProfessor.com shows Brat is pretty well-liked as a professor. He gets a 3.4 overall, and he even merits a chili pepper for his good looks. "He's so charming and really knows how to incorporate real world examples to keep the class exciting and relateable (sic)," writes one student. "Plus he's total eye candy!!"
7) Eric Cantor attacked him as a "liberal college professor." There's even a little cartoon of Brat in front of a chalkboard:
8) Brat thinks NSA bulk surveillance programs are unconstitutional. As Timothy B. Lee writes here, Brat has called for "the end of bulk phone and email data collection by the NSA," and has argued that the NSA's data collection efforts violate "our Fourth Amendment right to privacy."
9) Laura Ingraham is a huge Brat fan. Moneyed conservative outside groups weren't a major factor in this race. But certain endorsements from conservative media figures may have been. Laura Ingraham, a nationally syndicated talk radio host who has guest hosted on Fox News, endorsed Brat and attended a rally for him last week. "The establishment has had its way for election cycle after election cycle," she said. Conservative author Ann Coulter also endorsed Brat. She objected a Cantor remark that "immigration reform could be an economic boon to this country," called it "baby-talk," and said Cantor must be stopped.
10) Brat wrote a scathing, seemingly unpublished book about the economics profession. On his site, Brat has posted a 2005 manuscript called The Philosophy of Economics: A History of Science, Method and Ethics, in which he is ruthlessly critical of the economics profession. He writes that his "agenda" is "to illustrate, by the internal logic of economics alone, that the dominant methodology in economics is in serious question, if not dead." Check out Zack Beauchamp's analysis of Brat's academic work here.
11) Brat has a a Master of Divinity in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. "Before deciding to focus on economics, he wanted to be a professor of systematic theology and cites John Calvin, Karl Barth, and Reinhold Niebuhr as influences," Woodruff reports.
12) Brat headed a controversial, Randian-funded economics program at his college. As Danielle Kurtzleben explains here, this is the BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program, which has been controversial at other universities for including Ayn Rand's ideas in its curricula. The program's funder, former BB&T bank CEO John Allison, has been a long-time promoter of Rand's philosophy.
Jonathan Lawrence retired in 2013 after eight years as Nancy Pelosi's chief of staff. In that position, he spent a lot of time working with his counterparts in John Boehner's office. On his blog, he imagines how they're feeling tonight:
That there is no love lost between Cantor and the House Speaker is not an especially well-kept secret. What makes tonight's upset defeat delightfully ironic is that Cantor, who has spent the last three and a half years whipping up right wing dissatisfaction against Boehner's alleged moderation, is himself the victim of accusations of collaboration. In the past, I have directly heard quiet comments from those in Boehnerland whenever Cantor's bravado and snarky style got him into trouble. Tonight, I imagine, the atmosphere in the Speaker's Office is unadulterated glee.
Lawrence also sees an upside for campaign-finance reformers in Cantor's ouster. It's proof that money doesn't always buy victory:
If there is a serious silver lining in Cantor's defeat, it is that money does not always determine the outcome of elections. Brat reportedly spent about $200,000, although that doubtless was supplemented by lots of independent expenditures that targeted Cantor, like the PAC formed by Brat's former strategist. Still, Cantor had more than $5 million that couldn't defy a grassroots uprising. Somewhere, campaign reform activists must be smiling, although grimly.
My guess, though, is that most members of Congress will respond to tonight's election by trying to raise even more money and making sure they use it to bury even the most hapless of challengers.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spent almost a million dollars in his unsuccessful effort to stop David Brat's primary challenge. Brat campaigned as an orthodox conservative, but that didn't stop Cantor from portraying him as a "liberal college professor" with ties to Democratic Governor Tim Kaine.
These ads were too much for FactCheck.org, which said that Cantor "misrepresents his primary opponent’s role on a state economic forecasting board." It notes that the board Brat served on focused on technical economic issues. Brat never advised Kaine on tax policy, as Cantor's ads imply.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just lost a historic primary race — to an economist. Prof. David Brat chairs the Department of Business and Economics at Randolph-Macon College, a liberal arts school in Ashland, Virginia. Vox read over some of his academic research, and it helps give you a sense of what the politician at the center of tonight's political earthquake believes.
Brat doesn't just have a PhD in economics; he also has a Master of Divinity in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. His academic interests are similarly eclectic; they range from the business climate in Virginia to test scores in Eastern Europe to Ayn Rand.
Two main themes emerged in Brat's work: why some countries are rich and others are poor, and the relationship between ethics and economics.
For instance, take Brat's paper "Economic Growth and Institutions: The Rise and Fall of the Protestant Ethic?" Here, Brat makes the argument (amusingly citing the liberal economist Brad DeLong) that the spread of Protestantism in Europe was a key cause of European nations being wealthier than other countries. "Give me a country in 1600 that had a Protestant led contest for religious and political power," he writes, "and I will show you a country that is rich today."
In "Cross-Country R&D and Growth: Variations on a Theme of Mankiw-Romer-Weil," Brat and a co-author argue that countries with stronger domestic research and development bases are likely to be wealthier (though research spilling over from one country to another can narrow the gap). In a second co-authored paper, he suggested that countries that remain democracies for longer periods of time tend to experience somewhat higher levels of economic growth.
His papers on ethics and economics are quite different. Take what appears to be an unpublished book (it's listed on his website, but not his CV) designed for students, The Philosophy of Economics: A History of Science, Method and Ethics. Gone are the mathematical formulas and specific theses about growth of his more classic economic papers.
Rather, Brat's ambition is more sweeping. "I do have an agenda," he writes. "To illustrate, by the internal logic of economics alone, that the dominant methodology in economics is in serious question, if not dead." By "dominant logic," Brat appears to be referring to the idea that economics is a science — one dominated by attempts to demonstrate and verify, using methods like statistical regression, theories that accurately predict how economies work.
Interestingly, that means harsh criticism of conservative icon Milton Friedman, who, for Brat, serves as the principal advocate of the idea that economics should be about theory construction. Brat counters that "the best way to understand economics is by asking economists to explain what they are doing and how they are doing it, and then examine their claims."
It's not one hundred percent clear what that means, but one thing Brat clearly wants to bring to bear is the role of "values" in economics. Brat seems to believe that most economists are motivated by philosophy rather than science: they're secretly utilitarians who believe that the goal of public policy is to produce the greatest good for the greatest number.
He thinks this leads them to wrongly assert that their preferred policies are "scientifically" the best policies, when in reality they're just the policies that a utilitarian would say are the best. "Economists from the beginning to the end, have engaged in normative, ethical and moral arguments which diverge greatly from the work of the 'true' science which they espouse," Brat writes.
This may be why he's interested in other ethical systems, like Ayn Rand's teachings. Brat told National Review's Betsy Woodruff that ""while he isn't a Randian, he has been influenced by Atlas Shrugged and appreciates Rand's case for human freedom and free markets." He may see these beliefs as alternative to a consensus in the economics profession he sees as dishonest and morally flawed.
Matt Brooks is Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Committee. Eric Cantor is the only Jewish Republican member of Congress.
Numb. Speechless. Sad— Matt Brooks (@Mbrooksrjc) June 11, 2014
In other primary news tonight...
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - US Sen. Lindsey Graham defeats 6 tea party challengers in GOP primary, avoids runoff election.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 11, 2014
A few years ago, who would've predicted that Lindsey Graham — a guy who voted for immigration reform and worked on a climate-change bill — would survive a Tea Party challenge in 2014 but not Eric Cantor?
Just-deposed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his successful challenger David Brat spent plenty of this spring's primary campaign arguing over immigration. Brat, most recently, said that Cantor was responsible for thousands of child migrants coming from Central America — because he briefly discussed introducing a bill called the "KIDS Act" last year, which would have given legal status to some young unauthorized immigrants. (No bill was ever introduced.) But Cantor, meanwhile, sent out two mailers portraying himself as the man protecting America from the "Obama-Reid amnesty."
The first campaign mailer, via Politico:
The second mailer, via National Journal (this is the one that went out the same week that President Obama announced he was delaying his deportation review to give House Republicans time to work on immigration reform in Congress):
Todd Starnes, a popular conservative talk radio host on Fox, is sure pleased with Cantor's defeat:
Here's the message from Virginia: You either stand with Americans or you stand with the invaders.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) June 11, 2014
It's a reminder that somewhat outside the eye of the elite political conversation, conservative talk radio is an influential force that's always been relentlessly opposed to comprehensive immigration reform even when George W. Bush and other major party leaders were pushing it.
BURNN: GOP strategist says main reason Cantor lost is bc of himself. "Maybe he shoulda spent less time in Davos & more time in Culpepper."— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) June 11, 2014
Looks like we've hit the point in the evening when campaign strategists who didn’t predict this are now giving anonymous quotes about why it was inevitable.
Eric Cantor's shocking defeat at the hands of David Brat is that rarest of things in American politics: a genuine earthquake. And like with real earthquakes, the damage will be much greater because so few were prepared. A few provisional thoughts:
Further reading: For more on Eric Cantor's shocking loss, see the full storystream here.
In the wake of Eric Cantor's primary defeat, there are likely to be lots of pundits saying that Cantor lost "because of immigration reform." Many of those will say that Cantor's loss "kills any chance for immigration reform this Congress."
In the weird, meta, media-fishbowl world of Washington, where (if you're important enough) simply declaring something dead makes it less likely to happen, that might make sense. But taking a step back and looking at the reality of the situation, it's hard to see what Cantor's loss changes.
It's not as if the House was about to take up immigration reform this summer. Far from it. With only a handful of days in session over the summer, and the threat of executive action looming this fall, the House gave no indication that it was considering any immigration bill. The bills that had passed out of committee on 2013 appeared to have been abandoned by House leadership. The principles that leading Republicans released on immigration reform in January 2014 got shelved less than a week later. And every time Speaker John Boehner even went on the record talking about the need to persuade the caucus to act on immigration, he had to backpedal.
It's difficult to understand what would change now — or whether, even if the entire House Republican caucus believed something needed to be done on immigration, there would have been enough time to do it.
It's true that the House Republican leadership was more amenable to immigration reform than the membership of the GOP caucus. But that was mostly due to Speaker Boehner's doing. Cantor wasn't prodding members to act on immigration reform in 2014. Insider reports cast Cantor as either indifferent to immigration reform, or quietly working to avoid it and undermine Speaker Boehner. It's hard to imagine what more could have been done by a House Majority Leader to stymie immigration reform.
It's true that in early 2013, Cantor gave some speeches supporting legal status for young unauthorized immigrants, or DREAMers. (This was substantially to the right of other Republicans who were speaking out at the time — the "middle ground" for vocal House Republicans in early 2013 was legal status for most of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States.) But while Cantor was hyping a proposed "KIDS Act" for unauthorized young people last summer, no bill ever materialized. And last month, when fellow Republican Rep. Jeff Denham lobbied Cantor to allow a vote on Denham's much more moderate bill, to allow legal status only for young immigrants who joined the military, it was Cantor who shot him down.
A few weeks ago, President Obama delayed his executive review of deportation policy as a way to give the House a chance to pass immigration reform. That could have presented a pro-reform member of House leadership with an opportunity. Instead, Cantor sent out mailers that week bragging about stopping the "Obama-Reid Amnesty."
In fact, given the reports that Cantor was the most resistant member of leadership to immigration reform, deposing him might have the effect of making leadership more open to reform by default. But the personal positions of members of House leadership don't matter at this point. Immigration reform was dead in this Congress before anyone in Eric Cantor's district went to the polls.
Virginia has a Democratic Party governor, two Democratic Senators, and voted for Barack Obama twice. So it might surprise you to learn that eight of its eleven House seats are in Republican hands. That's the virtue of an artful gerrymander:
The 11th, 3rd, and 8th are in Democratic hands. All the rest are Republican. That creates a situation where most members have more to fear from primary challenges than general elections.
Eric Cantor (R-VA), the House Majority Leader who just suffered a surprise primary defeat, has butted heads with President Barack Obama on a wide variety of issues. But there's at least one issue where Cantor was a reliable Obama ally: NSA surveillance.
A year ago, when Edward Snowden released information demonstrating that the NSA had been collecting information about billions of US phone calls, some members of Congress from both parties lashed out at the NSA. Not Cantor. He defended the program, arguing that it was needed to fight terrorism.
In August, Tea Party Republican Justin Amash (R-MI), along with Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), offered an amendment to a defense funding bill that would have shut down the NSA's controversial phone-records program. The amendment won the support of 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats, coming just a few votes short of passage. Cantor, like Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voted no.
The man who just beat Cantor, Dave Brat, has taken a different tack on surveillance issues. In a recent interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, he argued that "The NSA’s indiscriminate collection of data on all Americans is a disturbing violation of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy." On his website, Brat says he favors "the end of bulk phone and email data collection by the NSA."
If Brat takes Cantor's seat, it will shift the Republican Party a bit more toward the Amash position on surveillance issues. That's significant because Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the government has cited to justify its phone records program, will come up for renewal next year. With more Republicans like Brat and Amash in Congress, that could be a tough sell.
From Emily Cahn, politics reporter at Roll Call:
Virginia has a sore loser law, so that means he cannot come back to run as an independent or write-in in #VA07— Emily Cahn (@CahnEmily) June 11, 2014
Correction: A reader pointed out Cantor might be able to run as a write-in, since the Virginia law only explicitly forbids his name from appearing on the ballot.
Per Open Secrets, here's a quick look at the financial mismatch in the VA-7 primary. Cantor out-raised Brat by a factor of 25:1.
Via Emily Cahn at Roll Call:
Yes, you read that right. No sitting House Majority Leader has lost since 1899.— Emily Cahn (@CahnEmily) June 11, 2014
And given that the Majority Leader position was first created in 1899, that means this has never happened before.
* The headline of this post has been updated for clarity.
In September 2010, as House Republicans seemed headed toward midterm triumph, Cantor and of his colleagues — Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan — co-wrote a book called "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leadership." They made this trailer for the book.
With Eric Cantor out, there are no non-Christian Republicans in the House or Senate.— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) June 10, 2014
In the most stunning upset of this election season so far, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary election to conservative challenger Dave Brat on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, criticized Cantor for being too willing to compromise with Democrats on immigration reform. "It's nothing personal against Eric," Brat told PBS Newshour in a recent interview. "It's just I don't see what he's doing on immigration." Cantor insisted that "my position on immigration has never wavered," and that he opposed the Democrats' "amnesty" bill. But those assurances apparently weren't enough for Virginia's GOP voters.
Cantor has never faced a serious electoral challenge since his very first Congressional primary in 2000, which he won by only 263 votes. Only two years after joining the House, he rose to be chief deputy whip, then the number four position in the House GOP's leadership. In 2008, he became John Boehner's number two — and frequently pushed for harder-line conservative policies and strategies. According to a profile by Jason Zengerle, shortly after Obama's inauguration, it was Cantor's idea to deny the new president any Republican votes for his stimulus bill. This strategy of opposition appeared to pay off when the GOP won control of the House in 2010.
Almost immediately after Cantor was chosen as majority leader, DC insiders speculated about the possibility that he could overthrow Boehner as Speaker with the support of hard-line conservatives. What followed in 2011, according to Politico, was "a year of bitter behind-the-scenes fighting. "When Boehner began having talks with Obama over raising the debt ceiling that summer, Cantor talked him out of it, as he later told Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker.
However, when conservatives tried to organize a challenge to Boehner in January 2013, Cantor made clear that he wanted nothing to do with it, and backed the Speaker's policies ever since. Talk of a Cantor challenge died down — partly because this unified front with Boehner caused conservative activists to lose interest in a Cantor speakership.
There was little attention paid to the possibility that Cantor himself might be vulnerable on his right. Brat had only managed to raise about $200,000, while Cantor had a multimillion-dollar war chest. But Tuesday's result shows that the right-wing primary challenge is alive and well — and should strike fear into the hearts of any Republicans thinking of working with Democrats on immigration reform.
Further reading: For more on Eric Cantor's shocking loss, see the full storystream here.
With Eric Cantor defeated at the hands of an even more hardline conservative primary opponent, it's an opportune moment to revisit what I think of as Eric Cantor's least-fine hour — the time he stymied a debt ceiling deal.
The year was 2011. The occasion was the Obama administration's moderately misguided effort to turn the need to raise the statutory debt ceiling into an opportunity to make a big budget deal. John Boehner and his Republican colleagues had articulated the idea that an increase in the debt ceiling was acceptable if and only if it was paired with large spending cuts. Obama replied that spending cuts were acceptable if and only if they were paired with tax hikes. Boehner, apparently, was prepared to strike a deal along these lines.
And then along came Cantor who, in an interview with Ryan Lizza, says he scuttled the deal:
LIZZA: There's sort of a final meeting with Paul Ryan and you and Boehner where it seems like there's a final sort of discussion about whether this offer needs to be rejected or not. The way it seems to be reported is-it seems like Boehner wanted to do it, you and Ryan sort of talked him out of it. Is that-
CANTOR: I would say it's a fair assessment, because, in the end, we felt that-well, let me back up, this is probably a longer answer. Yes, it's probably an accurate conclusion.
Thanks to Cantor, instead of the big budget deal we got sequestration. Unlike a big budget deal, sequestration front-loaded fiscal austerity which hurt the economy in the short term. But also unlike a big budget deal, sequestration didn't address the structural drivers of the long-term budget deficit — Social Security and Medicare.
Consequently, we got a budget deal that cut spending when it didn't need to be cut while doing nothing to address the country's long-term fiscal problems. For our troubles, we also got a period of about a week and a half when it looked like the country might plunge into a legal and financial crisis by running out of borrowing authority.
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