Eric Cantor and Lindsey Graham: 2 Republican Races, 2 Different Outcomes

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  • He's unapologetic about his views and positioned a win as a slap in the face for "radical" Tea Party republicans
    • "To be sure, Graham ... has said his popularity in one of the country's most hard-right states is a direct rebuke to the GOP's tea party wing and shows that voters, as he told a crowd recently, are "about the Republican Party moving forward, not backward." (Christian Science Monitor)
    • "At every one of Graham's campaign stops, I find Republicans who've been chagrined at the sudden rise of the right and now want their revenge. They bemoan the Tea Party as "extremists" and "wackos," and wonder what has happened to their party ... This is a common sentiment among Graham's supporters, and he hopes that by channeling their sentiment, he can prove there's more of an appetite for moderation in his party than has previously been thought." (The Atlantic)
 

WHY CANTOR LOST: THE THEORIES

  • He ignored the warning signs until late in the game
    • While other GOP incumbents facing tea-party challengers ... worked for months to crush their challengers, Mr. Cantor didn't push back hard against his opponent until too late in the campaign. (Wall Street Journal)
    • "Mr. Cantor received what amounted to a warning shot from local Republicans at a district convention last month in Henrico County, his political home base, when conservatives ousted one of his loyalists as Republican chairman while he looked on.  At that point, it was too late to stave off defeat." (New York Times)
 
  • He was running more for house speaker and less for re-election
    • "Cantor's problem was less ideology and more a sense that he stood more for his own ambition than for any definable policies." (TIME Magazine)
    • "'His constituent services suck. He was never in the district. And when he was in the district and he went out, he had a [security] entourage with him. He was out gallivanting all over the country being a big deal and this is a lesson.'" (Virginia Democratic strategist Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, TIME Magazine)
    • "Several said they believed that Cantor had mismanaged his campaign, with a strategy in which he was too aloof."  (Washington Post)
 
  • As a party leader, it was his job to "split the difference" between the Tea Party and the establishment.
    • "His position of authority also saddles him with any grievances that voters might have against the GOP leadership." (Five Thirty Eight)
    • "The House leadership must represent both factions, which are not necessarily at war with each other, but which face fundamentally contrary political imperatives ... The result of trying to split this difference is an unpalatable mush, delicious to no one ... For the more ideological Cantor, who tried to represent the Tea Party radicals but also coveted Boehner's job, it yielded a robotic incoherence: no but perhaps yes on immigration reform, no or yes on raising the debt ceiling, often in the same sentence. Vagueness and elision made Cantor inane." (Slate)
    • "Since the rise of the Tea Party, Republican incumbents in the House have faced a basic political question: Do they represent safe districts, in which case the threat to their survival comes from right-wing populists challenging them in primaries? Or do they represent swing districts, where the graver danger comes from a moderate Democrat running against them in a general election? ... [Cantor] was unable to make this choice in either direction." (Slate)
 
  • Brat portrayed him as soft on immigration 
    • "During the primary campaign, Brat repeatedly accused Cantor of supporting some immigration reform principles, including "amnesty" for undocumented workers. In response, Cantor had sent voters a mailer boasting of his role in trying to kill a House immigration bill that included that provision." (Chicago Tribune)
    • "Brat is indicative of the challenge House Republicans are facing across the country. If a Republican member shows any kind of openness to immigration reform measures, no matter how small, they have to worry more about a potential primary challenger than losing in a general election to a Democrat." (PBS)
 
  • He released ads attacking Brat - but the strategy may have backfired by putting the little known professor squarely in the spotlight
    •  "It gave [Brat] oxygen and it gave him sympathy. It was just a tactical mistake" ('a republican strategist,' Washington Post)
    • "When Eric Cantor spends millions and millions of dollars telling [voters] he's a liberal, he's a liar. ... You saw the people actually wanted to do something ... They wanted to help Dave out because you see this great guy being destroyed." (Brat's campaign manager, Zachary Werrell, LA Times)
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