Quick Thoughts: Cantor Loses Republican Primary

Eric Cantor (R-VA) was roundly beaten 55.5%-44.4% by Tea Party challenger David Brat in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Here are some first impressions of the result:

  • A couple of weeks ago the media were calling the Tea Party “dead.” The basis of this claim was that the Republican mainstream has shifted far enough to the right to pick up Tea Party endorsements and voters. The results of last week, with Thad Cochran (R-MS) going to a runoff against Chris McDaniel, and this week show that shifting in the wind isn’t always good enough. The Tea Party’s politics of logical conclusions and opposition to any compromise with Democrats still have a hold on a substantial part of the Republican party — and a part that votes in low turnout elections. Essentially the Tea Party has taken over the Republican party, and it still has enough of a draw to knock off “establishment” figures.
  • A quick bit of political geography: Cantor won the northern three counties of the district plus the city of Richmond. Brat won the rest (the southern six counties). I need to dig into the numbers here a bit more, but I believe the northern counties + Richmond were tighter in the 2012 presidential race than the counties won by Brat. This might mean what is commonly understood: the bigger the Republican margin, the more likely a portion of the Republican electorate will cut off to the right. Not shocking, but some more evidence to suggest that establishment candidates in very safe seats (safe from Democrats) will remain under threat, particularly if they touch a third rail issue like immigration.
  • Here are Cantor’s margins of victory (by percent) since he was first elected to the House: 2000 – 52; 2002 – 39; 2004 – 52; 2006 – 30; 2008 – 36; 2010 – 25; 2012 – 17.  Cook Political Report has the district as R+10. I don’t know the Democratic candidate, but with a good one, this district might just be in play in November, especially if Cantor runs a write-in campaign.
  • The Republican party is going to continue to tear itself apart on immigration. The hard right won’t give an inch on this issue, and is ready to devour anyone who tries to compromise. This is both bad for the country (the current system is obviously not functional) and bad for the Republicans. It is very unlikely that they will be able to hold back the dam in the red states that are going purple much beyond 2020 — those state legislature elections will be very significant — and, if the Democrats don’t mess things up as they usually do, the House could be back in their control with a substantial majority.

That’s all for tonight. More on this in the coming weeks.

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