The standard political spin out of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss in Tuesday’s Virginia GOP primary declares the election’s stunning result a tea party win.
In reality, neither the tea party or primary winner Dave Brat beat the number two Republican in the House of Representatives. Cantor beat himself. The arrogant, ego-driven Congressman from Virginia ignored warnings and thought of himself as too good to lose.
So, of course, he lost to a political novice who got 56 percent of the primary vote.
Those close to Cantor admit the ambitious Congressman is driven by an ego that far outstrips any abilities he may or may not have as an elected representative and they say he was so busy being “a Republican leader” that he forget the number one job of an elected official: Take care of the folks back home.
“I didn’t feel like Congressman Cantor cared about my problems or the problems of those of us in the district,” said voter Sandra Leeson. “So I voted for Brat.”
Leeson, however, says she is not sure she will vote for Brat in the general election. She may go with the Democrat who, like Brat, is a Randolph Macon professor with very little political experience.
“I did not necessarily vote for Mr. Brat,” she said. “I voted against Congressman Cantor.”
Brat’s odds-beating upset caught many political pundits by surprise.
“I’m as stunned as anybody,” says University of Virginia political prognosticator Larry Sabato. “This is one of the most stunning upsets in modern American political history.”
A longtime Republican strategist who is willing to talk as long as no one uses his same says Cantor’s loss is an example of “what happens when you don’t tend to the political weeds back home.”
Cantor’s loss is also an example of how easily one can fall out of favor with the volatile tea party — a faux “grassroots” movement that is actually a carefully-orchestrated political action group funded by the Koch brothers — two energy billionaires with a tightly-controlled agenda to further their own lusts for power.
He once was a poster child for the tea party but his support of immigration reform didn’t serve the desires of the Kochs so they back-channeled money and support to Brat. Under current vague campaign disclosure laws, the level of that support can — and will — be concealed.
In a primary campaign that even Cantor supporters admit was “disjointed and disappointing,” the Congressman tried to paint Brat as “just another liberal college professor.” Brat, however, is a right-wing activist who uses his teaching position to push conservative economic ideas. His opponent in the fall, Jack Trammell, is more in the mold of a liberal college prof.
“In that Virginia district, voters will have a choice of two political unknowns,” says GOP consultant Arnold Block. “Two pigs in a poke.”
“Obviously, we came up short,” Cantor said in his concession speech Tuesday night.
For Eric Cantor, that brief moment of political reflection may have been the first expression of reality and honesty in a hyperbolic career that came crashing down at the polls Tuesday.