Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cantor gets 'bagged

Yeah yeah, "no one could have predicted that terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings", but they did.

In the most stunning upset since Republicans took over the House of Representatives four years ago, Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his GOP primary Tuesday to a poorly funded and disorganized Tea Party activist. David Brat, an economics professor, beat Cantor by 12 points when the Associated Press called the race shortly after 8 p.m. Cantor served as the congressman from Virginia's 7th district since 2001 and as the leader of House Republicans since 2011.

 Cantor was the chief opponent of President Obama in the House, organizing unanimous opposition to the stimulus act in 2009 and opposing a deal led by John Boehner to end the government shutdown in 2011 in part by raising revenue. Cantor felt the heat from Brat over immigration, airing ads in the closing days saying he opposed "amnesty." Brat will face Democrat Jack Trammell in the general election.

There's a few more interesting angles to take on the morning after than "Tea Party rises! Flexes muscle! Eats GOP! Fires all of its guns at once and explodes into space!!!1!"

The first revealed itself early yesterday evening: that Virginia Democrats heeded the call from former Georgia Congressman Ben Jones -- also known as Cooter from 'The Dukes of Hazard'.

Cooter, who ran against Cantor in 2002, has penned an open letter calling upon Democrats in his former Virginia district to vote in the open primary next Tuesday for tea party opponent Dave Brat in order to defeat U.S. House Majority Leader Cantor.

Crossing party lines to vote in an open primary has a long tradition in the solidly one-party South, Cooter argues in his letter. "[B]y voting for David Brat in the Seventh District Republican primary, we Democrats, independents, and Libertarians can make a big difference in American politics," he argues. "It is your right to cast that vote. It is an 'open' primary and it doesn’t preclude anyone from voting anyway they wish in November. It may be the only way to empower those who want to make a statement about the dysfunctional Congress and 'politics as usual.'"

This is what happens in Texas frequently, and what Rush Limbaugh branded Operation Chaos in 2008.  Be sure you read both of these links, all the way to the end, in order to gauge the value of the tactic versus its ultimate 2008 result.  Nobody can apparently measure the effectiveness of this sort of thing (unless I just can't find the evidence, that is). So I'm going to go with 'urban legend' on the power of the crossover vote, as the district went 57-42 for Romney in 2012, until I see something more convincing in terms of empirical data.


While Republican primary turnout spiked by 28 percent over 2012, according to the State Board of Elections, Cantor received nearly 8,500 fewer votes this year than he did in the 2012 Republican primary, a drop that was larger than Brat's 7,200-vote margin of victory. Regardless of how many Democrats turned out to oppose Cantor, he still would have prevailed had he maintained the same level of support as in his 2012 landslide.

If Democrats showed up in large numbers to vote against Cantor, turnout should have spiked highest from 2012 in Democratic-leaning areas, with Cantor seeing an especially large drop-off in support. In fact, turnout rose slightly more in counties that voted more heavily for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

The second, from Politico this morning, reveals that immigration reform -- or amnesty, as conservatives now derisively call it -- isn't the reason Cantor got upset by Bagger Brat.

Democrats are making the case that it was Cantor himself – not immigration – that dealt a powerful blow to the one-time rising Republican star’s political career. And they are releasing new data on Wednesday to back up their argument.

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, according to a poll by the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change.

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.

Meanwhile, Cantor was deeply unpopular in his district, the PPP poll found. About 63 percent of those surveyed in his district said they did not approve of the job Cantor has been doing, with 30 percent of registered voters approving. Among Republicans, 43 percent approved of Cantor’s job performance, while 49 percent disapproved, the survey found.

“Cantor didn’t lose because of immigration,” pollster Tom Jensen wrote in the memo obtained in advance by POLITICO. “He lost because of the deep unpopularity of both himself personally and of the Republican House leadership. Even in his conservative district voters still want immigration reform passed, and they want it this year.”

Well, it was a "librul" poll, so cons sure aren't going to believe it.  They would rather place their faith in God's will or their own self determination, after all.

Update: There are a few Republicans also saying that it wasn't immigration that brought him down.

Candidly, the most interesting thing to me is that we might have a Texan as Speaker of the US House, sooner than later.  Because it's always about us, after all.

And because (Cantor) was next in line to be Speaker of the House, his ouster means that Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling could be in for a promotion. It had already been widely assumed that Speaker John Boehner may call it quits within a year, tired of tangling with tea partiers.

Whether Hensarling would have challenged Cantor, the party’s No. 2 leader, for Speaker was never clear. The Texan, elected in 2002, gave up his post as the party’s No. 4 leader last year to become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee — a perch that comes with lots of attention from deep-pocket donors. He has been widely viewed as a plausible contender for Boehner’s job, having led the Republican Study Committee, a key conservative bloc, before joining the party’s leadership team.

Cantor’s defeat will trigger a leadership scramble that will play out in coming months, and it opens a fresh path for Hensarling’s further ascent.

Plenty of tea leaves still to be read on these developments.  You can start with Booman and TPM, and I'll add more if it tells anything more significant than the stock takes.

Update: For Jewish Republicans... oy vey.

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