Wow, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Just Lost His Primary, Partly Thanks to Immigration
Womp womp. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just lost his primary in a defeat to a professor named Dave Brat, meaning he's out of the House at the end of his term. The loss is stunning for Cantor, the representative for Virginia's 7th district, and for pretty much everybody else; nobody expected the majority leader to go down in the primary on Tuesday night. As The Washington Post reported earlier today, Brat had $40,000 of campaign funds left headed into March, compared with Cantor's $2 million. Everyone was so sure Cantor would win, the Post awkwardly said the biggest question was how big his margin of victory would be.
Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in Congress, has been deeply mired in the GOP's identity crisis, most recently over immigration. Though he's sided with the Tea Party on major issues in recent years, he was ultimately expected to be an ally in Speaker John Boehner's plan to get an immigration bill passed. And his home district was never really down for him, the Post reported.
Still, Cantor was expected to be the next Speaker after Boehner calls it quits, so his ouster has turned the whole Republican leadership structure upside-down. And immigration? Probably not happening, says everybody, though if this loss is any indication, everybody is sometimes wrong.
The weirdest thing about this primary upset is that both Democrats and Tea Party Republicans are supposedly stoked about it: Tea Party Republicans because they wanted Cantor's straight-talkin' challenger, Brat, to win; Democrats, perversely, because this could mean Republicans don't get immigration done before the next elections. Why are they potentially excited about that? If Republicans don't get immigration done, well:
But also, Dems just really didn't like Cantor. Hard to see how a Tea Partyin' guy with the last name of "Brat" who opposes any kind of immigration reform is a solid replacement, though.
Anyway, the Tea Party's a minority of voters in the U.S. And they're a really, really polarizing minority. Siding with them on key issues like immigration could mean losing other voters the GOP really wants to win to snag the next election — especially the presidential election. That goes double for Hispanic voters, a key demographic the GOP's been trying (and failing) to win over for years.
But before Democratic pundits get all excited about their next perceived tactical advantage, they should probably take a moment to remember that immigration reform is more than just an issue on the ballot; it's policy affecting millions, and the majority of Americans agree it needs reforming. So if Cantor's defeat really means the end of immigration reform, at least for now, that's shameful.
What happens next? The ball's in the GOP's court...and the voters', too.