Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Addition By Subtraction: Eric Cantor

So in a surprise tonight, Eric Cantor lost his primary race to some Tea Party/Religious Right guy. I have to say that I'm not really upset about this. Here's why.

First, for those who have followed the site long enough, you will know that I have no love for Eric Cantor. Cantor was the number two guy in the House and was widely seen as the heir to John Boehner, but I had a lot of problems with him. For one thing, Cantor is one of these guys who has never had a career outside of politics and that has resulted in him having no sense of what the American public cares about. This tin ear made an appearance repeatedly in his speeches and in his judgment. For example, he never produced an agenda, despite declaring himself one of the "young gun conservatives" in the House. The agenda he did support was wonky and pointless at best. It was also delivered to him by K Street. He was quick to surrender too on every issue and often threw his fellow Republicans under the bus at the first sign of trouble, no matter how minor. Had he become leader, it would have been like replacing an accountant with an auditor when the party really needs a salesman or marketer. So this should help improve the leadership.

Secondly, in a related point, Cantor has zero political instincts. He's not someone who should ever be put in a position of speaking for the party or formulating strategy. I can't think of a single time that he's had an effective counter-point in any argument or debate.

Third, Cantor has a propensity to disloyalty. He tried several times to topple Boehner between 2008 and 2011. This resulted in him often refusing to back Boehner at critical times and offering hints of support for anyone who attacked Boehner. In the last couple years, he's been more loyal because he thinks Boehner will retire soon, but you can't really ignore history and you can't trust someone who betrays their own leadership partner.

Fourth, this is a little big picture but with his loss, Virginia will lose a good deal of influence. That's actually a good thing at the moment because Virginia's GOP is batsh*t crazy, and the only way to clean them up and make them competitive again in a state that should be red will be to strip them of the benefits guys like Cantor brought to the state.

On the negative side, this has energized the Tea Party nuts for the night and they are leaving all kinds of racist, anti-Semitic and just plain retarded comments all over the web. But how is that different than any other night? Talk radio too will spend tomorrow jerk themselves off into a frenzy at their supposed power, but again, how is that different than any other day? And it's not like this really changes anything. Indeed, a handful of wins out of nearly 500 races isn't exactly something the GOP will fear.

So I guess ultimately, my take on this is that the Tea Party has done us a favor. Good for us.


Critch said...

Politics is an odd game. Cantor never had a novel idea, he never got the people to trust him...I know next to nothing about the new guy, however, he may slide toward the middle; Virginia isn't exactly bright red. I know the fringe of the Tea Party seems extreme, but frankly so does the fringe of the Left....it balances out.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, Cantor always came across as cold, wonkish, sterile, and untrustworthy to me. He won't be missed.

In terms of Virginia, Virginia is one of the first red states to turn purple and then blue because the local GOP went absolutely crazy. (Colorado is another.) The GOP there is dominated by the religious right, and they turn off way more people than they attract. This and the last governor's race will only continue their slide toward irrelevance.

And yeah, the fringe left is just as nuts and extreme. The difference is that the Democrats are good at only running those people in places like San Francisco. They know they can't win in more moderate places.

K said...

"In the end, the Tea Party isn’t going away anymore than Sarah Palin is going away, but they are finished. Tonight was the last nail the coffin needed. The money and the voters have jumped ship back to the GOP. It’s over."

; )

Tennessee Jed said...

it would seem to me that a HR race is not usually a good indicator of national trends. The electorate is too prone to being unrepresentative.

Joel Farnham said...

I have news for you guys. The Tea Party didn't do it and neither did the talk radio guys. Brat walked his precincts. That and a little luck. Cantor decided, since he had a secure district, could safely push amnesty and Obama-bots saw the polls and responded with helping kids cross the borders since amnesty was just around the corner. That was the last nail for Cantor. Brat drove it in.

In the end, it came down to, are you going to vote for the guy who stays in Washington and wont answer your calls or the guy who sat at your table and had coffee and talked politics?

This book explains it all.


It features and stresses that walking a precinct and identifying and getting the votes to the polls is the way to win an election. How I know this? Listen to the man's interview with Hannity. Brat casually mentions walking the district.


When was the last time that you talked face to face with your representative?

BevfromNYC said...

What may be interesting is that the Dems in Cantor's district probably thought he was so safe that they drafted a filler/placeholder to run against him. Now that Cantor's out, this might be an interesting political lesson to learn.

Anang said...

Apparently the dem candidate Trammel was a weirdo so dems weren't so hot about him. That plus an open primary system, comments from dems on twitter seems like dems voted for brat to throw cantor out.
If this is another tea party wave then Lindsay Graham shouldn't have comfortably won his primary. This is another murkowski/lugar repeat of 2012 but remains to be seen if Brat can win. He seems to be OK.
But it suspiciously feels like i'm watching someone be fattened up for a november slaughter.

AndrewPrice said...

K, How did I know this would bring you back? So the Tea Party has won two primaries this far and hilariously claims one more where they flip-flopped candidates and the insider they backed as their own immediately declared himself as friend of Mitch McConnell, and you apparently think that means they're alive and well? You, my friend, are the walking definition of confirmation bias.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, What seems to have happened here is a redistricting change. They filled his district with religious right voters who don't really like non-fundamentalists, and Brat is a fundamentalist and Cantor is a Jew. Add in that Cantor is hard to like and you have a rather unique set of circumstances.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That probably helped a lot, especially as the district has a lot of new voters in it. It sounds like Cantor made the fundamental mistake of not connecting locally with these new people.

One thing is for sure, this was no national Tea Party wave.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, From the sound of it, this is a very safe conservative district. So Brat should win. But we'll see. You never know.

AndrewPrice said...

AM, I agree. If this had been a national wave, there would be more than a seat here, a seat deep in Texas and a silly flip-flop seat in Nebraska. And Graham would have been in real trouble. He is, after all, one of the top most hated characters on the right and he's running in a very conservative state.

From what I've seen, this is the result of a redistricting change where Cantor's district took in a lot of people who had no history with him and who were very much at odds with his insider behavior and possibly his religion. Add in that he's just never been a likable guy, that Brat apparently ran an excellent campaign, and that Virginia is in the middle of a GOP civil war where Religious Right and establishment have been trying to wipe each other out, and this is very understandable. I can't go so far as to say it was predictable, but it is understandable.

Tennessee Jed said...

I agree with the notion GOP needs a salesperson. They may not have the policy consensus yet, but it needs to be about helping average people, not just rolling back government. By my earlier statement, I mainly mean that this is a district that doesn't necessarily reflect the national or even the statewide view. I suspect it was more a vote against Cantor than for Brat.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That's very true. There are probably less than 20 districts like this in the country and they are all in the Theological belt. So yeah, they aren't representative. And I definitely think this was an anti-Cantor vote.

On the salesman point, that's why I'm actually kind of happy about this. Cantor is a wonk. He believes in K Street solutions. He is not a guy who would ever have won the public for us. So I'm glad he's been taken out.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, There's some interesting talk about this being largely the result of Democratic cross-over. Apparently, the left has been pushing the idea of voting against Cantor for a week or so, and the turnout was oddly high for the Republicans and low for the Democrats. Is that what happened? No idea, but it could have contributed.

Joel Farnham said...

The redistricting is probably the reason why the polls were so off. They simply called the people in the old district and not the new one.

In Graham's state there were seven candidates on the ballot. This diluted and diffused any upset effort. It was more a situation of better the devil you know instead of a saint you can't identify.

The Tea Party is dead, but really isn't. The Tea Party now is used as a booggie-man and diversion of what is happening and why it is happening. The same as with Talk Radio. It is easier to blame it on a non-existent party, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh than ferret out the truth.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Politically, the Tea Party is almost dead. They still have some influence, but it's almost vanished and it's become anathema to the rest of the GOP and a punchline to the country.

That said, the true believers still believe. I had a discussion with a couple last weekend and they were quite open that their goal was the destruction of the GOP so that "they would finally listen to reel Americans" (their words, not mine), and they truly believe that the public is secretly with them. They had no explanation for why the Tea Party candidates are getting creamed everywhere.

AndrewPrice said...

As an aside, in terms of talk radio. They will continue their war on the GOP, and they will sway some minor percentage of conservatives to refuse to support the GOP. The GOP response should be to start triangulating against talk radio as an easy way to regain the middle ground.

Joel Farnham said...


Talk radio is the last thing the GOP should be worried about. Talk radio has never had that much power. It never will. Talk radio allowed Clinton to be elected TWICE as well as Obama TWICE. Triangulating against talk radio is a good way to waste money and time. Talk radio is good for having the pulse on what moves conservatives. Since the GOP isn't interested in what moves conservatives, they won't take advantage of the information. At best talk radio is a gadfly. At worst it is a depressant.

In local elections, it matters more with what you have on the ground going door to door regardless of your politics. If you want more moderates, gather your moderate-inclined and motivated people to find moderate candidates and then go into the districts and seek out the people who would vote for them and get those voters to the polls. If you want more conservatives... same thing. It is that simple and that hard. The good news is that it isn't that expensive and the votes are out there. The bad news is that it takes time and shoe leather effort.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, There is a lot to that in terms of House races. But in Senate and presidential races, party image becomes much more important than meeting people. And in that regard, conservatism tends to be associated to talk radio by the public. So triangulating against them is an easy way to present yourself as "not them."

That said, you are risking turning off conservatives. But frankly, the ones listening to talk radio these days are proving that they won't turn out unless it's their candidate. So you really have a lot to gain and little to lose.

Joel Farnham said...

Here is a fun factoid: Of the six challengers to Lindsey Graham, 6 of them reside in District 6 of South Carolina. District 6 has the only Democrat to the House of Representatives from South Carolina.

AndrewPrice said...

Here's an interesting article which points out that while each of the Tea Party groups is now declaring victory in the Cantor race, not one of them actually contributed a penny to help Brat. LINK

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That's interesting. I wonder what that means?

Joel Farnham said...

I found out that the MAJOR party is responsible for paying the fee for each candidate. $10,440 a person. GOP party in South Carolina HAS to pay it for the Republican. That is somewhat substantial but not overly so. So it should follow that each of them had to have some sort of GOP backing . Well, how many districts does South Carolina have? Seven.

So I then thought that maybe the other six GOP districts didn't like Graham so contributed one candidate each. I double checked their bios. That was how I found out that all of them were from District 6. I then checked who was the person from District 6. A Democrat.

I find it exceedingly odd that they only found Republicans willing to go against Lindsey Graham from one district and not the other 6 and that there were 6, not 5, not 4, not ...you know the rest. It may mean nothing, but Nikki Haley did refuse to get into the petty squabbles of the local GOP.

Here is a thought, could it be each district had the chance to put up one candidate, money earmarked for each group? While they were talking, someone worked very hard to get 6 candidates to claim each of the six remaining funds to dry up any challenger? None of the challengers put up much of a fight and since they all were from District 6 had no natural winning organization to fall back on.

Maybe it is nothing. Graham is just loved so much that no one wanted to really challenge him. Yeah, that's it.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I have no idea. I'm not sure what that would accomplish.

Joel Farnham said...

I'm still thinking. I just find it really odd that all six of them are from a district that didn't win any election.

Rustbelt said...

Joel asked: "When was the last time that you talked face to face with your representative?"

Well, actually, just last week. I went to a coffee sit-down with Keith Rothfus at a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a classic Western PA community situated between some hills along a creek complete with old train tracks. I got there a little late after my shift, and may have been the youngest guy there. (There 6 to 8 people total.) Some highlights:

-The VA scandal. Several of the older guys were irate about it. Rothfus said his crew had determined that backups were caused by requests that were sent in, but had to be verified in offices in Atlanta. After the requests came back, they were 'lost.' (Several hundred to be exact.)* In a nutshell, people aren't doing their job, and accountability reform is needed. Interestingly, the House passed such a bill that landed on Harry Reid's desk and stayed there. Then His Majesty, in a State of the Union address, called for VA reform. That left Rothfus and company screaming, "we passed a bill! Would you at least look at it?"

Obamacare. Not much to be added here, but. interestingly, it was mentioned how damaging it's going to be now that VFD's will be required to cover their firefighters. The House passed a bill- unanimously- to exempt VFD's. But instead of voting on it, Reid tacked it onto the Extended Unemployment bill as an amendment, knowing that the EUD extension was set up so that it would never pass the House. (State Governors have said that, given the retroactive nature of the bill, it would be impossible to implement.)

Social Programs. Andrew, here's an example of a Congressman who I think understands what you've been saying lately. One of the old guys bitterly complained about social programs and said they should all be scuttled so that lazy people would get back to work. Rothfus calmly said bundling people into a group like that wasn't a good idea. Most people on UC, welfare, or whatever are there because of circumstances out of their control. He said most have paid into those programs and deserve what they were promised. In short, it wouldn't be a good way to grow support by singling those people out.

Like I said, I was a little bit late. But, there's some of my discussion with my Congressman. Any thoughts, Andrew?

*-we were specifically talking about the Pittsburgh VA; which, I should add, had a salmonella breakout just two years ago.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I think he's absolutely right. Most people on benefits are there for a reason other than just being lazy. In fact, there are many reasons people could end up needing benefits. And attacking all those people as lazy just makes you the jerk and turns people off. If you're going to get into that, you need to take the approach working to preserve the benefits for those who need it by removing those who act fraudulently in obtaining them.

As for the rest, I think this guy sounds quite smart. I wish him luck in 2014. :D

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