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Eric Cantor's fall: Tea Party win, or was Cantor just asleep at the switch?

Eric Cantor at press conference day after defeat
Eric Cantor at press conference day after defeat
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Eric Cantor, one of the most powerful Congressmen in the nation, was badly defeated at the polls on Tuesday. The six times elected Congressman was not supposed to encounter any serious challenge in the GOP primary. In the weeks and months leading up to the election there was only one incident that suggested he was in trouble. At a Republican meeting last month in Richmond, which was also attended by his challenger, David Brat, Cantor was booed off the stage. This embarrassment happened in front of his family, including his wife, children, his mother and his mother-in-law. Two years ago Cantor won re-election by 73% of the vote. Just a couple of weeks before the June 6 election, the Congressman’s own internal poll showed he had a 34% lead over his challenger.

Mr. Brat, a Tea Party member and a college professor, has never held an elected office. Many feel that Brat’s win is proof that the Tea Party movement is alive and well. Others blame Cantor directly for his overconfidence, and generally being absent from his voting district. Not in touch, not meeting with his voters, and just being distant, is what the people of central Virginia are saying about Eric Cantor. Meeting his voting public by invitation only, was not a wise way of staying in touch with his constituents.

In contrast, Rob Wittman, another Virginia Republican congressman, won his primary easily. His voting district, which includes the counties of the Northern Neck, city of Fredericksburg and Newport News, also includes a significant Tea Party movement, but Wittman seems to stay in touch with his voters and is frequently seen at public events talking with his constituents.

In the 1948 Presidential election President Harry Truman was not expected to win over the popular Thomas Dewey. The majority of polls predicted that Dewey would be elected and a number of major newspapers went to press with headlines giving the election to Dewey. Truman shocked the nation, however, and was re-elected.