Eric Cantor Loses Primary to Challenger Dave Brat

By Berg, Rebecca | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, June 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Eric Cantor Loses Primary to Challenger Dave Brat


Berg, Rebecca, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


House Majority Leader Eric Cantor fell to challenger Dave Brat on Tuesday in a stunning primary upset likely to send shockwaves through Congress and the Republican Party.

The Associated Press called the race for Brat shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern time -- marking the first defeat ever of a sitting House majority leader.

"Obviously, we came up short," Cantor conceded to supporters, with his wife, Diana, by his side, shortly after the result was called.

"It's disappointing, sure," Cantor added. "But I believe in this country. I believe there's opportunity around the next corner for all of us."

The result will no doubt cause a leadership scramble on the Hill, where Cantor was expected by many within the Republican Party to one day succeed House Speaker John Boehner. It was not immediately known whether Cantor planned to remain as majority leader for the duration of his term, nor whether he plans to wage a write-in campaign for re- election. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

"Eric Cantor and I have been through a lot together," Boehner said in a statement. "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."

Cantor's campaign knew a challenge from the right flank could be serious and did not take the match-up with Brat for granted, spending close to $1 million on the second-ranking House Republican's re-election bid. Brat's campaign spending, meanwhile, was in the low six-figures.

Cantor also made a last-minute push for his seat with a slew of new advertisements, including a positive ad touting Cantor as an adversary to President Obama, and another attacking Brat as a "liberal college professor."

Cantor appeared in a strong position heading into the election Tuesday. An internal poll released days ago by his campaign showed Cantor leading Brat by a whopping 34 points; and, as recently as last week, top Cantor political adviser John Murray expressed confidence in private conversations that Cantor would win by nearly that margin.

However, Cantor's re-election strategy had key fatal flaws. Despite serious spending and encouraging polling, he lost to Brat by a wide margin, more than 10 points.

In television ads airing as early as April, Cantor's campaign attacked Brat by name, likely increasing his name identification for voters looking for an alternative to Cantor.

Cantor might also have suffered at the polls in part due to the more conservative make-up of his district in this election cycle compared to the last. …

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