House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated by a little-known Tea Party backed candidate last night in a Virginia primary. While some in the news media are rushing to blame his defeat on voter hostility to immigration reform, the reality of the situation is more complex.
The lede in the UT-San Diego page one story, sourced from combined AP/Washington Post coverage, said the upset resulted from “a wave of public anger over calls for looser immigration laws.” This analysis fits very neatly into the commonly accepted narrative saying the teahadist victory is an off-year primary in a conservative district, where the largest bloc of GOP voters are about two steps above frothing at the mouth.
That just isn’t quite true. But at the Congressional level it’s a handy excuse for doing nothing, something the current batch of House Republicans have excelled at.
Interestingly enough, Public Policy Polling surveyed registered voters in Cantor’s district on Tuesday, finding 70% approval among GOP registered voters (strongly or somewhat support) for immigration reform that would “secure the borders, block employers from hiring those here illegally, and allow undocumented residents without criminal backgrounds to gain legal status.”
Cantor didn’t lose because of immigration,” pollster Tom Jensen wrote in the memo obtained in advance by POLITICO. “He lost because of the deep unpopularity of both himself personally and of the Republican House leadership. Even in his conservative district voters still want immigration reform passed, and they want it this year.”
Cantor’s defeat will likely mean the end of any opportunities for bi-partisan support for immigration reform legislation, be it piecemeal (favored by some Republicans) or comprehensive (the administration’s approach).
However, it’s the collapsing house of cards in Washington among the GOP leadership in the wake of this primary upset that dooms immigration reform.
Via the Washingon Post’s Chris Cillizza:
House legislative activity will cease. Again, there wasn’t a heck of a lot of grand legislative plans before Cantor’s loss. But that trickle will totally dry up now as Republican members avoid doing anything — literally, anything — that could be used against them in the many primaries still to come this summer and fall. Members will be afraid of their own shadows.
New York Times political correspondent Jonathan Martin was on Twitter this morning, saying his sources were telling him Cantor would be removed forthright from his leadership position.
In email, top House GOPer says bluntly: succession races “need to happen prior to July 1 break,” can’t have ldrshp “muddle” til Nov.
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) June 11, 2014
UPDATE: Via Vox.Com
Eric Cantor will announce later today that he’ll step down as House Majority Leader, effective July 31, reports the Washington Post.
The decision ensures that the contest to succeed Cantor will play out soon. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, a good friend of Cantor’s and part of his “Young Guns” group, is next in line. But McCarthy’s close association with the existing leadership team might create an opening for a more conservative challenger.
No Immigration Reform Until After 2016?
While it would be hard to characterize Cantor as pro-immigration, it was widely believed the House Majority leader would be the key person–mostly due to his long list of corporate donors with skin in the game–in putting together a GOP flavored bill towards the end of the summer.
Via Adrian Carrasquillo at Buzzfeed:
Stunned by the loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, advocates for immigration reform said Tuesday night that the only remaining hope for bringing legal status to undocumented people in America lies through executive action by President Barack Obama.
“Everyone was betting on the primaries for the tea party to die out, with this win, a majority leader hadn’t lost since 1899, this is big going to rile up the Steve Kings, the Mel Brooks of Alabama, going to scare a lot of members,” said Cesar Vargas, an activist who is himself a “DREAMer,” having come to the United States without papers as a child. “Before we heard the votes are not there yet, now they’re gone.”
“Absolutely [Cantor’s defeat] means the president should go big on administrative action,” Vargas said.
The calls for executive action are not new. Major moves on immigration already seemed increasingly dead in the House this session. But now, they appear dead for longer than that — through the 2016 Republican presidential primary, and perhaps as long as Republicans control one house of Congress.
Was It Operation Chaos?
All kinds of ugly stuff is spilling out today…
Cantor’s campaign distributed an internal poll just last week that showed him ahead 34 points over challenger David Brat.
Cantor raised and spent more than $5 million this cycle, and had $1.5 million cash on hand as of two weeks ago. He outspent Brat by 25-1.
Was Cantor over-confident? Oh, yeah.
Via the New York Times:
One measure of the extraordinary defeat could be seen in the candidate’s finances. Since the beginning of last year, Mr. Cantor’s campaign had spent about $168,637 at steakhouses compared with the $200,000 his challenger, David Brat, had spent on his entire campaign.
Republican pollster John McLaughlin is suspicious about the results, and not just because he’s looking foolish right now. For one, turnout was significantly higher in this primary election than it was in 2012 in the same district. He suggested, in an email to the National Journal both the far-right and the left did his candidate in.
Via Talking Points Memo:
McLaughlin cited a dramatic spike in primary turnout from the 2012 cycle, as well as bitter criticism of Cantor on immigration, which inspired right-wing radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin to go all in for Brat.
But McLaughlin also attributed the loss to a plan hatched by former Congressman Ben Jones (D-GA), who encouraged Democrats to vote for Brat in the open primary.
Jones, known for his role as Cooter Davenport on The Dukes of Hazzard, ran unsuccessfully against Cantor in 2002.
Elections Have Consequences
While advocates for immigration reform may have garnered a lot of press following Cantor’s downfall, there are others who have concerns. Like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.
Via the Washington Post Wonkblog;
It’s true that Cantor enjoyed a strong relationship with business, and it went far beyond tech to Wall Street especially. The industry that gave him the most campaign contributions was the securities and investment sector. Individuals from the private equity firm Blackstone were his biggest financial supporters. Cantor went to bat for the industry repeatedly over politically unpopular issues, including the taxation of income at private equity firms at the lower capital gains rate.
That’s no surprise: for decades, the GOP and big business have worked closely together to build a political alliance that until recently appeared airtight. But now with Tea Party activist groups charging the traditional wing of the GOP with “crony capitalism”–and Cantor’s loss–the balance of power is creeping away from the pro-business faction of the Republican Party.
It shouldn’t surprise anybody that the Democratic Party is out there raising funds off this election already. Here’s Representative (and former House leader) Nancy Pelosi’s take on last nights upset:
The American people should take notice. Tonight, the Tea Party defeated Republican Leader Eric Cantor who is one of the most extreme Members of Congress.
Eric Cantor has long been the face of House Republicans’ extreme policies, debilitating dysfunction and manufactured crises. Tonight, is a major victory for the Tea Party as they yet again pull the Republican Party further to the radical right.
As far as the midterms elections are concerned, it’s a whole new ballgame.
A whole new ballgame indeed. One of the most right-wing congressmen wasn’t extreme enough for his own party.
The Other Big Losers in Washington
A Native American tribe based in northern California paid for an anti-Redskins advertisement to run in seven major cities during halftime of last night’s NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. (The Spurs won 111 to 92)
Via the Washington Post:
The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, based about an hour northeast of San Francisco, would not say how much it spent for the coveted advertising slot, only that it was a “significant investment” that was deemed necessary to further what its leaders describe as an important discussion of racism.
“It’s just a time to get people thinking about putting an end to outward hatred and using sports as a tool to focus on racism,” Marshall McKay, chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun tribal council, said in a video explaining the tribe’s involvement in the name controversy.
Another Day, Another School Shooting
Two people died yesterday in a shooting at a high school in Troutdale Oregon.
Via the Huffington Post:
Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been an average of 1.37 school shootings for each school week, according to data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group fighting to end gun violence.
Including Tuesday’s incident at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, 74 school shootings have taken place in the approximately 18 months since the Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown shooting. The average school year typically lasts about 180 days, which means there have been roughly 270 school days, or 54 weeks, of class since the shooting at Newtown. With 74 total incidents over that period, the nation is averaging well over a shooting per school week.
Blind Justice in Revenge Porn Case?
Exactly six months ago today I wrote a column about a creep who got busted after stealing privately stashed (or so they thought) explicit photos and posting them on a web site. His business model included posing as an “internet lawyer” and offering to take the photos down for a $250 fee.
As I pointed out at the time, there was a very real chance that no criminal prosecution would succeed, due to grey areas in the law.
…the problem here is that the state will have to convince a jury that “publishing” and “obtaining” are the same thing. YouGotPosted simply allowed others to publish the information. And when you start to talk about restraints on publishing, you wander into Freedom of the Press issues. This case is by no means a slam dunk.
UT-San Diego reported yesterday that the judge in a preliminary hearing in that case admitted to being computer illiterate.
Kevin Bollaert, 27, of San Diego is accused of operating the site and demanding money from women who wanted their nude photos taken down. He faces felony charges, including identity theft, extortion and conspiracy.
“It’s a fairly new phenomenon,” Deputy Attorney General Tawnya Boulan Austin told the judge at the start of the hearing. She said it’s usually the spurned member of a former couple who takes revenge by posting intimate photos of former lovers online.
The prosecutor was explaining the concept to Judge David Gill, the senior jurist on the San Diego Superior Court, who admitted he was not technologically inclined and did not use a computer.
Does anybody else see a problem here? Wow…
On This Day: 1913 – Police shot at maritime workers striking United Fruit Co. in New Orleans, killing one and wounding two.1993 – The Supreme Court ruled that people who commit “hate crimes” could be sentenced to extra punishment. The court also ruled in favor of religious groups saying that they indeed had a constitutional right to sacrifice animals during worship services. 1996 – A Metallica concert at a small club in San Francisco was broadcast live via the Internet.
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bob dorn says
A few thoughts:
Districts elect House representatives; Americans don’t. Eric Cantor was rejected by 55% of an extreme right wing district in Virginia.
Big Media was caught napping, and today’s tendency to see this as a crucial turning point in Republican history is a momentary attempt to recover readers and credibility. Bigger Tea Party news would be when Speaker John Boeher’s loss or resignation from the Speakership of the House were to happen. Then the Tea Party could lay claim to leadership of the GOP
Pollsters are in trouble. Only days ago one of the least margins of victory predicted for Cantor was 22%. And as Doug Porter points out “Cantor’s campaign distributed an internal poll just last week that showed him ahead 34 points…”
The Tea Party is an interesting historical outburst, but so was George Wallace and Rand Paul and that guy who ran for President from Texas. It would be too much to think this one election proves much of anything.
John Lawrence says
Now maybe the Republican leadership will regret how they gerrymandered districts to “guarantee” that a Republican will always be elected from those districts. Problem is (from their point of view) they can’t guarantee which Republican, and, since Republicans are getting even more extreme, the more “mainstream” Republicans are getting “primaried.” This is a formula for electing the farthest right Republicans district by district. Our only hope is to get Democrats elected in districts that aren’t so severely gerrymandered. Are there any of those? We better get busy figuring it out. Elections have consequences, and one of the biggest consequences of the 2010 elections was that Republicans got themselves elected and then gerrymandered the hell out of the district system. This happens once every ten years when the census is taken. Let’s hope Democrats are in power in 2020 if we’re all still here by then. Until then we’ll be subjected to the same Tea Party extremism in the House as we’ve seen since 2010.
Hope Judge David Gill has a tech-savvy grandkid he can consult.