The above chart, from Saletan, helps explain Cantor’s loss:
Most respondents in the 2012 national poll volunteered jobs or the economy as their top issue. Only 22 percent of the voters in Cantor’s primary agreed with that priority, even though it was explicitly offered in the questionnaire. Thirty percent of the voters in Virginia’s 7th District named debt and spending, which didn’t even crack double digits in the national polls. And while fewer than 10 percent in the national polls said health care reform was their top issue (pro or con), 25 percent of the voters in Cantor’s district specifically said their top issue was “Stopping Obamacare.” As for immigration, the percentage of people who volunteered it as the most important issue in the 2012 U.S. survey was less than half a percent.
Ezra’s take on Cantor’s defeat:
There is no grand ideological lesson to draw out of those results. They don’t say what Americans want, or what Republicans want, or even what Tea Party conservatives want. They don’t reveal the true politics of immigration reform (particularly on a night when Senator Lindsey Graham easily beat back a primary challenge) or whether the Tea Party is a live wire or a spent force in American politics. There are no grand lessons about the schisms in the Republican Party in those results. As Ben Domenech writes in the Transom, “this race was not about the Tea Party — Dave Brat may have been backed by voters sympathetic to the Tea Party, but not by any significant organization, money, or groups.” It’s not even clear the results say much about Cantor’s relationship with his constituents.
Frank Rich was unsurprised by the news:
If you listen to Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham, or other voices of the grass-roots right, the base’s loathing of Cantor and possibly his primary defeat would not have come as a shock. If your sole sampling of Republican opinion is the relatively establishmentarian Fox News, you might have missed it. You certainly would have missed it if you think today’s GOP is represented by the kind of Republicans who swarm around Morning Joe, where Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are touted daily as plausible GOP saviors who might somehow get the nomination.
Ben Domenech believes Cantor lost sight of his constituents:
Graham’s victory and Cantor’s loss provide a good contrast in the crippling danger of complacency in politics. And that’s becoming the real lesson of the 2014 primary season: good candidates win, bad candidates lose – and the difference is often as simple as recognizing who you represent is not the collection of interests inside the beltway but the people who actually pull the lever back at home. While Cantor has been gunning for the speakership now for several years, his ladder-climbing ambition leading him to attempt to position himself as all things to all people, he lost sight of the frustrations back home in his “real Virginia” district.
Trende, a former Cantor constituent, found that Cantor’s office was unresponsive:
In his political science classic, “Home Style: House Members in Their Districts,” Richard Fenno hypothesized that members of Congress have three goals: re-election, power in Washington, and enacting policy preferences. To pursue the second two goals, a member must achieve the first, and to do that, he or she must adopt a style that suits the district. If these images are not consistently reinforced, the incumbent will have trouble. Crucially, Fenno notes that the adoption of an effective home style involves a two-way communication process: Telling the constituents about oneself, but also listening to constituents. With the benefit of hindsight, we can probably apply this model to explain most of the Tea Party wins and losses over the past few years.
I have yet to read anything suggesting that Cantor had a good home style. His staff is consistently described as aloof, and his constituent service is lacking. This is consistent with my experience.
Douthat tries to look on the bright side:
An alternative takeaway, though, is that Cantor himself didn’t have the credibility required to play a unifying role – that his operator’s persona and K Street-friendly record were all wrong for the part, and that he’d rebranded himself so many times that he came off as an establishment phony trying to play the Tea Partier, rather than as someone who genuinely shared populist concerns. …
If this message’s resonance becomes part of the takeaway from Cantor’s defeat, then the lessons of [Tuesday] night look rather different, and his disaster doesn’t have to be a setback for the effort to reform the G.O.P. Rather, it can be a teachable moment, demonstrating not that a Republican synthesis is unachievable, but that it needs to consist of more than gestures and triangulation: It needs to be both substantive and authentically populist, or it will not be at all.
Sarah Binder’s two cents:
Cantor’s loss strikes me as less a statement about GOP disagreement about immigration reform and more an illustration of right wing populist dissent within the GOP. Brat deemed Cantor out of touch with Virginia’s main streets and far too in touch with Wall Street—charging for example that Cantor diluted the STOCK Act limiting lawmakers to do the bidding of allies on K Street and Wall Street. The fault lines that emerged over the Wall Street bailout in late 2008 continue to roil American politics.
And Brendan Nyhan considers what the loss means for Cantor’s lobbyist buddies:
The shock to the value of these lobbyists can be significant. In a study published in the American Economic Review, the economists Jordi Blanes i Vidal, Mirko Draca and Christian Fons-Rosen found that lobbyists connected to United States senators suffered an average 24 percent decline in revenue when that senator left office; those connected to a House member experienced average revenue declines of 10 percent.
These effects appear to be especially strong for lobbyists connected to members serving on influential committees. Given the power Mr. Cantor wielded as majority leader and his potential ascension to House speaker, ties to him would have probably been similarly valuable before Tuesday night.
The Dish’s full Cantor coverage is here.