"Earthquake. The members are completely shocked," was the reaction of one House Republican lawmaker after Majority Leader Eric Cantor's out-of-the-blue loss to challenger Dave Brat Tuesday night. Trying to grasp the import of what happened, Republicans settled into two schools of thought.
The first was amazement at the sheer power of immigration as an issue in GOP contests. Many Republicans believe Cantor tried to play both sides of the street on the issue, on one side working on measures to ease the way for more young illegal immigrants to move into mainstream American society, and on the other assuring fellow Republicans that serious immigration reform would not happen this year.
The other strain of thought among Republicans is speculation about what Cantor's defeat will mean for the House GOP leadership overall. Now that Cantor has gone down, can Speaker John Boehner survive?
"If you've heard of this guy Mitt Romney, you'll know people don't exactly love people who talk out of both sides of their mouth," wrote one pro-immigration reform Republican message maven. "In my opinion, that was Eric Cantor."
To the side opposing Gang of Eight-style reform, the problem was that Cantor too obviously aligned himself with what those opponents called amnesty. "Cantor lost because he represented corporations pushing for foreign workers, and Dave Brat was courageous enough to stand for American workers," wrote one anti-Gang of Eight Hill aide. "Brat proved you can beat the corporate open borders money with his campaign message: 'A vote for Cantor is a vote for open borders and lower wages.'"
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