U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia suffers defeat to a Tea Party challenger on Tuesday in a Republican primary that shocks Congress and gave the conservative movement a strong victory.
Cantor (R) was second in command in the House of Representatives that easily beaten by college economics professor, David Brat, who accused Cantor of betraying conservative principles on spending, debt and immigration.
The result might suspend efforts to push-through a House immigration reform bill, as tension arises from the Republican Party to protect themselves against future challenges from the right ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm elections. This would make even harder for President Barack Obama to reach out and accomplish something.
Republican colleagues had seen Cantor to be the next speaker of the house succeeding John Boehner. However, with Cantor’s defeat will mean a shake-up in the Republican leadership that creates tension to House members about the depth of public anger toward Congress.
Cantor, a seven-term congressman, had spent about $5 million on primary election, and defeated by a newcomer, David Brat, who teaches at Randolph-Macon College.
Brat spent only about $122,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and was not seen in the media or national Republican circles as a threat to Cantor.
The victory would be a challenge to Boehner when the new leadership team is chosen. “Eric Cantor’s loss tonight is an apocalyptic moment for the GOP establishment. The grassroots is in revolt and marching.” Brent Bozell said, a veteran conservative activist and founder of the Media Research Center and ForAmerica.
With nearly all precincts reporting, Brat had about 56 percent of the vote to Cantor’s 44 percent.
“I know there are a lot of long faces here tonight,” Cantor told supporters. “It’s disappointing, sure.”
Brat, speaking to an ecstatic crowd, said: “This is the happiest moment, obviously, of my life.”
“We all saw how far outside the mainstream this Republican Congress was with Eric Cantor as the helm, now we will see them run further to the far right with the Tea Party striking fear into the heart of every Republican on the ballot,” Steve Israel said (New York, who heads the House Democratic campaign committee).
During the primary campaign, Brat repeatedly accused Cantor of supporting some immigration reform principles, including “amnesty” for undocumented workers while Cantor sent voters mail with respect to his role in trying to kill a House immigration bill that included that provision.
Brat also accused Cantor of losing touch with his central Virginia district while serving the party’s leadership.
Republican strategist suggested Cantor did not see its coming and too slow to realize how real the threat from Brat was.
“Easiest way to lose a campaign is to not take your opponent seriously,” strategist Matt Mackowiak said on Twitter.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on CNN that Cantor had helped make Brat better known by attacking him by name in the late stages of the campaign.
It was speculated that immediate replacement for Cantor would be, either, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Je Hensarling of Texas and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, when the House meets to pick new leaders at the end of the year.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also faced a Tea Party challenge on Tuesday. However, he beat six of his challengers who accused him of not being conservative enough.