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The Cantor defeat: Inside the storm

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

The stunning defeat of House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Tuesday's Virginia primary election is being ascribed to not necessarily a single issue but a number of things that came together to create the perfect political storm.

Mr. Cantor had been far ahead of his tea party-backed (but hardly heavily funded) challenger, David Brat. But in the only poll that counted, Mr. Brat, who had serious doubts about his ability to win, trounced Cantor, 56-44 percent.

There's no doubt that Cantor's wishy-washy position on immigration, particularly amnesty, upset his base. But there's also little doubt that his base saw Cantor's growing leadership role — he was the odds-on favorite to be the next speaker of the House — as an abandonment of the Old Dominion's 7th Congressional District. Additionally, a low turnout worked against a Cantor campaign that figured it had the race in the bag.

Veteran Virginia political watcher Tom Davis, a former GOP state representative, called it what it was — “a genuine grass-roots revolt.”

Now comes David Brat, a college economics professor who embraces constitutional and free-market principles. He'll face Randolph-Macon College colleague Jack Trammell, an associate professor of sociology, nominated by a Democrat committee after no candidates entered the race, who says his campaign is based on “community,” student loan reform and greater access to higher education.

The takeaway from Eric Cantor's defeat? All politics really is local and taking your constituents — and your re-election — for granted will lead to your profound political embarrassment.

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