GOP lessons to learn: Why Dave Brat beat Eric Cantor

GOP lessons to learn: Why Dave Brat beat Eric Cantor

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Dave Brat is victorious in VA over Eric Cantor
Dave Brat is victorious in VA over Eric Cantor

WASHINGTON, June 11, 2014 – Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated by a relatively unknown rival in the Virginia primary yesterday. Apparently, his rival was not that unknown. He was defeated by Tea Party Candidate Dave Brat, an economics professor who has never held political office. Brat won despite having a fraction of the war chest that Cantor had ($40,000 vs. $2 million at the end of March). Brat attacked Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, highlighting that Cantor is an elite establishment GOP who has voted to raise the debt ceiling and supported immigration reform in the form of amnesty.

Dave Brat was outspent directly 22-1, and at higher rate if you consider the independent expenditures that were done on Eric Cantor’s behalf. Dave Brat was so far behind in fundraising that while Cantor was flooding the airwaves with commercials in Richmond, Brat could not even get on the air. Cantor’s reelection was all but guaranteed.

He lost.

Cantor had his eyes on the big prize that he has always wanted. That is, being Speaker of the House of Representatives.

How did he lose?

Cantor treated his district with disdain. He refused to conduct Town Hall meetings. Eric Cantor ignored his base. Literally.

Then Cantor exhibited the hubris and entitlement he is so well-known for. First he refused to debate Dave Brat then he began negative attack ads against Brat that everyone in his district knew were absolute lies. Cantor’s ads alienated people more than they damaged Brat and drove up the number of voters who went to the polls for Brat.

And then there was amnesty. Cantor is strongly for amnesty, which is hugely unpopular in the 7th Congressional District. Cantor’s people realized this so they sent out a mailer talking about how Cantor was fighting Obama on amnesty. Meanwhile, just before the election, Cantor told a Richmond TV station that he is willing to work with Obama on immigration.

All those did was reinforce an image that Cantor was just another politician who was willing to lie and say anything to be reelected.

There was one other dynamic that really hurt Cantor. In Virginia, each Congressional District has its own Republican convention. This year, Cantor and his allies tried to control many of those conventions with a process called slating.

In Virginia, each county gets a certain number of delegates who can go to the convention. The number is so large that any Virginia Republican who wants to go to a convention as a delegate can. But Cantor and his allies went to a number of counties, limiting the number of delegates to a few hand picked supporters of Cantor, leaving a large number of conservative activists unable to attend.

Conservatives were furious about this.

If there was a day that marked the end of the Cantor campaign, it was May 10, 2014. That was the day of the District 7 Republican convention. At that convention, Cantor’s hand picked crony was the candidate to be reelected. The convention had even been rigged so that Cantor’s man would be reelected. He was not reelected.

Tea Party activists and other conservatives had other thoughts.  Cantor’s man was voted out and Cantor was booed off the stage.

Eric Cantor’s defeat is a story of a massive ego, a shockingly incompetent campaign and a sitting member of the House of Representatives who totally lost touch with his district.

It is also a lesson for the GOP.



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Judson Phillips
Judson Phillips is the founder of Tea Party Nation, one of the largest Tea Party Groups in the country and the number one national tea party site on the Internet. A lawyer by profession, Judson has been involved in politics since his teens. “Ronald Reagan inspired me,” he says. Judson became involved in the Tea Party movement in February 2009 after hearing Rick Santelli’s rant on CNBC. “I heard there was going to be a Tea Party in Chicago inspired by Santelli, but didn’t know if anyone was doing a rally in Nashville where I was based. Finally I emailed Michelle Malkin and asked her if there was a Tea Party in Nashville. Malkin sent an email back saying, ‘No, why don’t you organize one?’ I did.” The first Tea Party in Nashville was held late February 2009 which drew a crowd of about 600. Judson then organized the Tax Day Tea Party in Nashville, which drew over 10,000 people into downtown. It was at this time that Tea Party Nation was formed. Later that year, Judson decided to bring activists from across the country together, so he organized the first National Tea Party Convention in February 2010, which featured Alaska’s former Governor and Republican Vice Presidential Nominee, Sarah Palin as it’s keynote speaker. He currently manages the Tea Party Nation website, writes several daily columns and is working on more projects than any one person should. He is a frequent guest on cable and broadcast news shows, including on Fox, MSNBC, CNN and others.