Why Cantor Got Canned

Jun 11, 2014 8:53am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • A ROUT IN RICHMOND: In an enormous political upset, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Republican primary in Virginia’s seventh congressional district last night to Dave Brat, an economics and ethics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, and political unknown. According to the Associated Press, Brat won with roughly 55 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent. Cantor became the first person in American history to lose his party’s primary while holding the position of House majority leader, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and JOHN PARKINSON report. Brat’s bid was widely seen as a long-shot, improbable campaign to unseat the possible heir to Speaker John Boehner. Cantor has long been seen as the member of Republican leadership friendliest to the tea party, but it’s possible his portrayal as being open to immigration reform is what hurt him in this campaign. http://abcn.ws/1mEW3sB
  • CANTOR, BRAT SPEAK: Cantor spoke to his supporters gathered at what they thought would be a victory party, saying he knows there are “a lot of long faces here tonight and, it’s disappointing, sure, but I believe in this country, I believe there is opportunity around the next corner for all of us.” Cantor added, “I look forward to continuing to fight that fight with all of you for the things we believe in for the conservative cause because those solutions of ours are the answers to the problems that so many people are facing today,” Brat, 49, though poorly funded, did have some high-profile conservatives behind him with both Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham backing his bid. Cantor spent over $5 million in this race while Brat spent just over $100,000. “This is the happiest moment, obviously, of my life,” Brat said in his victory speech last night. CANTOR’S SPEECH: http://abcn.ws/1oLEueW BRAT’S SPEECH: http://abcn.ws/TIesOd
  • WHO DIED? House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued the following statement last night: “Eric Cantor and I have been through a lot together. He’s a good friend and a great leader, and someone I’ve come to rely upon on a daily basis as we make the tough choices that come with governing. My thoughts are with him and Diana and their kids tonight.”

 

ANALYSIS:

ABC’S JEFF ZELENY: Eric Cantor is the latest — and biggest — example of why campaigns matter. And now the hottest campaign in Washington will be to fill his shoes in the House Republican leadership. This morning, a top GOP official says it’s “highly unlikely” Cantor will step down early as Majority Leader, but his power is gone and an epic fight is soon to begin. Will Kevin McCarthy prevail? Or is this the moment Jeb Hensarling or another member with Tea Party street cred breaks into the leadership ranks? It’s another test for Speaker Boehner — perhaps the most challenging one yet — on keeping the House GOP in line. There’s little doubt that immigration reform is dead and rank-and-file Republicans will suddenly be more nervous than ever.

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: What happened in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District Tuesday night amounted to a political earthquake, with shockwaves that will be felt across the national political landscape. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., fell to conservative challenger Dave Brat — and not just by a little. Brat’s margin of victory was more than 10 percentage points, 44 percent for Cantor compared to 55 percent for Brat, according to the Associated Press. The implications of Cantor’s primary defeat are vast. Here are a few: http://abcn.ws/1kNGBhh

–IMMIGRATION REFORM IS DEAD: The issue that got Brat going in his primary win was immigration, portraying Cantor as a proponent of “amnesty,” which is a stretch even in the bounds of political rhetoric. Cantor’s loss effectively eliminates any slim chance the U.S. House of Representatives had of passing immigration reform along the lines of the Senate bill this year. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will face even more — and now, likely overwhelming — pressure to shelve these efforts, given the message that just got delivered to his top lieutenant.

–THE TEA PARTY IS ALIVE AND WELL: About all those stories about the Tea Party not being relevant anymore… The only reason Cantor could be caught napping was the aggressive support Brat enjoyed among Tea Party activists who joined with national conservative voices such as Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter to boost a candidacy nobody was paying attention to.

–NOBODY IS SAFE: Cantor’s loss makes his the biggest scalp in the short, aggressive history of the Tea Party movement — surely the biggest primary upset since Mike Castle went down to Christine O’Donnell in Delaware in 2010. While that cost the GOP a Senate seat even Castle didn’t have the national cache of Cantor. If Cantor could be caught beaten in his backyard, in a Republican primary, the list of definitely safe Republicans is alarmingly short.

–THE RACE FOR SPEAKER IS ON — TO THE RIGHT: Boehner’s days as House Speaker were thought to be numbered even before this stunner. Any thought of the House Republican conference steering back toward a moderate direction in choosing a leader was zapped by Cantor’s primary defeat.

 

BUZZ

COULD CANTOR RUN AS A WRITE-IN? According to Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, since World War II “only two percent of House members who sought another term have lost re-nomination.” Although it is far from clear if Cantor would wage a write-in bid, Kondik says it “appears that he could run as a write-in if he wanted to. It would be his only way. It seems to be a legal possibility,” note ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE and JOHN PARKINSON. In 2010, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski waged a successful write-in campaign against Joe Miller when she too lost a shocking primary. Murkowski actually conceded to Miller before changing her mind and waging the write-in effort. It is hard to compare anything to the unique Alaska electorate, but both Murkowski and Cantor have nearly universal name recognition in their respective states, and they both are able to raise money. “There is only one other member of the House that lost re-nomination this year,” Kondik noted. “(Texas’) Ralph Hall. It’s not like we had a flood of these upsets and I don’t expect there to be a flood afterwards. This is a weird fluky event.” WALSHE explains what happened in this massive upset. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1kNZpgB

MEET DAVE BRAT: THE TEA PARTY CHALLENGER WHO TOOK DOWN A GIANT OF THE HOUSE. Meet Dave Brat, an economics and ethics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, who launched a long-shot — and ultimately successful — bid to oust House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from his seat representing Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Brat, who admits that he has supported several Cantor candidacies over the years, says he mounted his improbable primary campaign because the House GOP’s No. 2 leader has lost touch with his constituents, “veering from the Republican creed.” “Years ago he had a good conservative track record, but now he’s veered off,” Brat told ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON during an interview on Capitol Hill in May. “If you go to Heritage and look at their score, I think he’s at about a 53 right now. I mean, that’s an F-minus.” Heritage Action’s scorecard tracks Republican votes, co-sponsorships and other legislative activity to gauge how conservative members of Congress are performing. Cantor actually receives a 52 percent, which ranks seventh among eight Virginia House Republicans. The quirky challenger always knew he had a tough road to victory in the primary. Brat calls himself as a “free market guy,” and says he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also pledged never to increase taxes and to stick to a five-year promise not to vote to increase the debt limit. http://abcn.ws/1xFZI21

LINDSEY GRAHAM WINS, AVOIDS RUNOFF. Sen. Lindsey Graham won his Republican primary against his six competitors, and with over 50 percent of the vote, has avoided a run-off in the South Carolina senate race, according to the Associated Press. According to ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, Graham’s primary was supposed be a tough race with tea party and conservative groups opposing the two-term senator and lining up months ago to predict what a difficult primary he would likely have. He has even been censured by local tea party groups in the state, but in the end it was the primary that wasn’t. http://abcn.ws/THzwVf

OBAMA VENTS ON ‘BIGGEST FRUSTRATION’: GUN VIOLENCE. President Obama says his “biggest frustration” in office has been the failure of policymakers to “keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” according to ABC’s DEVIN DWYER. “We’re the only developed country on earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week. And it’s a one-day story. There’s no place else like this,” Obama said during a Q&A at the White House yesterday hosted by the social media site Tumblr. Obama’s comments came the same day that a teenage gunman shot and killed a student and injured a teacher inside a Troutdale, Oregon, high school before apparently killing himself, authorities said. “Why aren’t we doing something about this?” Obama said of the recurring violence. “I have been in Washington for a while now and most things don’t surprise me. The fact that twenty 6-year-olds were gunned down in the most violent fashion possible and this town couldn’t do anything about it was stunning to me.” http://abcn.ws/1llEkJQ

HAPPENING TODAY: President Obama delivers the commencement address at Worcester Technical High School in Worcester, Mass., today at 4:00 pm ET.  Later he attends a Democratic fundraiser in Boston.

RAND PAUL CALLS HILLARY’S BENGHAZI EXPLANATION A 2016 ‘DEAL KILLER’. Congressional Republicans were unimpressed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s comments in her primetime interview with ABC News this week, knocking the perceived frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination and questioning her ability to serve as president, note ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON and ARLETTE SAENZ. Sen. Rand Paul, who also is considered a presidential contender, said Clinton’s actions surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, demonstrated that she is incapable of being commander in chief. “Ultimately, that’s a deal killer for her. I don’t think she can win the presidency because, frankly, people want a commander in chief who can defend our troops and who will defend our embassies,” Paul, R-Ky., said. “This wasn’t a one-night thing. This was a six-months request for security that was denied.” http://abcn.ws/TGixCE

TED CRUZ AND CANADA OFFICIALLY PART WAYS. It’s official. Ted Cruz is no longer Canadian. Not even a little. The Texas senator, who was born in Canada and had dual citizenship with the U.S., has officially renounced his Canadian dual citizenship, a spokesperson for Cruz confirmed, according to ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ. Cruz’s office provided ABC News with a copy of the Canadian Renunciation Letter, which says he formally renounced his Canadian citizenship on May 14, 2014. The letter, which is signed by a Canadian minister (unclear who), was opened at Cruz’s home in Houston yesterday. The letter simply reads, “the person named above has formally renounced Canadian citizenship and pursuant to the Citizenship Act will cease to be a citizen.” Cruz, who is floated as a potential presidential contender in 2016, discovered he held dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship last year when it was first reported by the Dallas Morning News, and questions were raised about his eligibility to run for president.  http://abcn.ws/1hGg99E

CUCCINELLI NAMED NEW PRESIDENT OF SENATE CONSERVATIVES FUND. With news of Tuesday’s stunning tea party upset over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor still fresh, a tea party-aligned group is announcing a leadership appointment, ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE reports. Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate, has joined the Senate Conservatives Fund as its new president, ABC News has exclusively learned. SCF is an outside group which boosts tea party challengers over some Republican incumbents and is hated by many establishment Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It was founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. In a statement, Cuccinelli said he is “honored” to join SCF and has “always had tremendous respect for this organization” and he “applaud(s) its members for working to elect principled conservatives.” http://abcn.ws/1jkdSfH

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

DRONE BRAIN: INSIDE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL COSTS OF PULLING THE TRIGGER IN DRONE WARFARE. A new military thriller puts its audience in the shoes of the U.S. military personnel who face complex ethical and psychological struggles in waging the country’s drone war. “The idea is: Where are we going with drone warfare and what is the cost – not only the cost of collateral damage, but how about the psychological costs to the people who are flying the drones?” Rick Rosenthal, the director of “Drones,” told ABC’s DAVID KERLEY. “Drones” follows the story of two fictional soldiers operating a drone from a base in the United States as they close in on a high-level terrorist target in the Middle East. But when the order comes to pull the trigger, one of the soldiers resists executing the mission with the understanding that the strike will also come at the cost of killing innocent civilian bystanders. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1s5lR9M

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@NKingofDC: Betting Cantor’s loss was more anti-incumbent ire than tea party or immigration. He lost touch. But we’ll never know. Politics<Science

@mckaycoppins: The right wing elite was just sitting down to dinner at @BrentBozell‘s house when Cantor race was called. My story: http://www.buzzfeed.com/mckaycoppins/how-the-right-wing-celebrated-eric-cantors-defeat …

@Sarah_Boxer: 7 of the 10 top zipcodes that Cantor donations came from were NYC: http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/geog.php?cycle=2014&cid=N00013131&type=I … (via @OpenSecretsDC)

@edatpost: NEW THIS MORNING: In the wake of @EricCantor‘s loss, how did GOP lawmakers react last night? http://wapo.st/1s52opD  (w/ @WesleyLowery)

@ShaneGoldmacher: Reminder: The only other House incumbent to lose a primary this year, besides Cantor, is 91-year old Ralph Hall

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