Eric Cantor’s loss is historic. No sitting House majority leader has lost an election since the office was created in 1899. While Cantor’s loss was a stunning surprise, the warning signals were around for a while:
1. Cantor managed to muddle his message on immigration. His direct-mail pieces claimed he was foursquare against amnesty. But the newspapers covering Washington, D.C., quoted him as saying he was seeking a compromise with President Obama on immigration. Voters resolved the seeming contradiction by deciding to vote out their establishment congressman. Cantor’s loss destroys any chance of a comprehensive immigration bill passing the House this year.
The lesson on Tuesday night is that establishment candidates ignore their most ardent voters at their peril.
2. The majority leader outspent his opponent, David Brat, by $2.5 million to $200,000. Much of that money went to negative ads against Brat that turned off voters and were so vitriolic as not to be credible.
3. Cantor was also hurt by a subterranean campaign by Democrats to convince their supporters to vote in the Republican primary against Cantor. Apparently, some of them did.
John Fund is the national affairs correspondent at National Review Online.