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Cantor’s defeat, mythbuster edition

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and his wife, Diana, leave the stage after his concession speech in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, June 10, 2014.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and his wife, Diana, leave the stage after his concession speech in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, June 10, 2014.  (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• Cantor’s defeat, mythbuster edition
• So what the heck did happen?
• Power Play: Can Franken get the last laugh?
• No se puede
• Your winner, by default

A lavish mythology has already arisen around the shocking defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who despite a 28-to-1 cash advantage, a late-game media blitz and 13 years of incumbency, lost to an economics professor at a small college in the district. To know what happened, we first ought to know what didn’t happen.

Myth - Cantor was upended in a low-turnout election by a small number of tea party radicals.

Reality - The results in Cantor’s defeat, the first-ever primary loss by a sitting House majority leader saw a marked rise in turnout from 2012: a 28-percent turnout increase from the presidential-election year. You may feel free to lament the poor levels of American civic involvement, generally. But this is not a case of low-turnout electoral distortion.

Myth - A wave of immigration outrage among downscale voters in lower-income rural and far suburban precincts overwhelmed Cantor’s complacent electoral base in upper-income precincts in and near Richmond.

Reality - Immigration seems to be the chief animating issue here, but this was not blue-collar versus white-collar voters. Turnout was up fairly uniformly across the district, including the affluent sections of Cantor’s home county of Henrico, which the majority leader lost too. From precincts with median incomes near the poverty line in places like rural Louisa County to those nibbling strictly upper crust in the West End of Richmond, the electorate was energized and not digging the incumbent.

Myth - Democrats crossed over in Virginia’s non-partisan primary to do mischief and sabotage the stronger Republican candidate to improve their chances in the fall.

Reality - There is no evidence of any chaos operations here. While turnout was up in every part of the district, the increase lagged in the most Democratic neighborhoods, with the City of Richmond up 22 percent compared to Republican strongholds like Goochland County which jumped 28 percent. Plus, Democrats have slim hopes of winning the district, which leans heavily Republican, this fall. Cantor is all but certain to abide by voters’ wishes and the state party has already blessed Brat’s candidacy. The incentive for mischief was low. And with a 10-point margin of victory, any disingenuous Democrats would be strictly background noise.

Myth - The race was another battle in the national civil war between the tea party and the Republican establishment.

Reality - New nominee Dave Brat got a big boost from talk radio heavy hitters like Mark Levin, but this was a very local election. While tea party groups are stampeding to Richmond to lay claim to Brat’s success, they’re late in coming. Brat had zero backing from any of the national groups that are forever raising money for their fight against the GOP old guard. Brat is certainly more conservative than Cantor, but he hardly fits the preferred national narrative.

[“It wasn’t a contest between the tea party and the Republicans and all this.  Although I had tremendous tea party support and just wonderful people in the tea party grass roots helping me out, and they’re clearly responsible for the win, but I ran on the Republican principles.” Dave Brat on “Hannity.” Watch full interview here.]

Eric Cantor has an impressive national organization, deep pockets and has successfully helped shift the national GOP’s thinking on a host of issues other than immigration. But if the folks at home are fed up with business as usual, look out. This race has already been over interpreted and that will only get worse. But just remember what Dave Brat’s key pitch was: he ran as Cantor’s “term limit.” Americans of all stripes are deeply fed up with the status quo in Washington, and while Cantor’s flip-floppery on immigration certainly provided rocket fuel for the effort to oust him, his role as the face of the GOP establishment in general was a huge hindrance.

Veering, sneering - Cantor made several mistakes, ignoring the challenge, then turning bitterly negative in the closing weeks. It was a sour message compared to those of sweetly successful incumbents like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who emphasized the commonalities he shared with his rivals and asked for mercy on disagreements. Graham won easily last night as an avowed moderate in a very conservative state. Cantor wasn’t a straight shooter. He attended a retreat for an anti-tea party group led by former Rep. Steve LaTourette this spring and was clearly part of an effort to beat back the conservative insurgency. But as his own race appeared to grow more competitive, Cantor suddenly shifted. He deep-sixed immigration and vowed no action this year. But then, after his pollsters erroneously declared him safe, Cantor flipped back the other way with approving words for legalizations for limited groups of illegal immigrants. Veering and insincere-sounding, Cantor wrongly believed that his clout, incumbency and money would be enough.

[How about a refund? – A poll from McLaughlin & Associates poll claimed Cantor had a 28 point lead over Brat at the end of May.]

Nobody loves you when you’re down and out - Another oft-overlooked piece in all this: the political consequences of a federal debt of more than $17 trillion. When congressional leaders could pour pork on their districts, grouchy constituents could be mollified with new roads and other treats. But there are no ribbon cutting ceremonies for sequestrations. Without earmarks, Cantor couldn’t make the folks at home listen. Leadership without extra spending perks is no prize.

Economics Professor Dave Brat will head to class with a new title, Republican House nominee. The 49-year old teaches at Randolph-Macon College, a small, liberal arts school north of Richmond. Throughout the campaign, Brat attacked Rep. Eric Cantor as “part of the problem” in Washington, who has lost touch with Virginians’ wants from ending ObamaCare to reducing debt. A native of Detroit, Brat received his doctorate of economics at American University. He and his wife Laura live with their two children, in Henrico County.

Award winning staff? - Cantor’s staff is a large orchestration, with 23 paid employees. David Brat seems to have taken it down a notch with only a couple of paid staffers. Washington Examiner’s Betsy Woodruff interviews Brat’s 23-year-old campaign manager Zachary Werrell who interviewed for a job at Panera Bread Company and has been crashing on the couch of his mentor.

Going to be awkward at faculty meetings – Virginia’s 7th District House race had a Randolph-Macon sweep. Brat will face fellow Randolph-Macon College assistant professor Jack Trammell, 50, to succeed Cantor in the November election. In a heavily Republican district, Trammell didn’t stand a chance against Cantor. Since Brat outshined Cantor, Trammell sees a glimmer of hope heading into the fall. Before Tuesday’s primary, Trammell had a haphazardly designed website. Now it seems that Democrats have thrown support behind the candidate launching a new website and social media outreach.

[If the November election was based on the quality of the professor, Trammell would have Brat beat. Students voted Trammell overall quality a 4.3 –out of 5—versus Brat’s 3.4 rating, but students rate Brat to be very easy on the eyes.]

Majority Leader Eric Cantor has a decision to make: whether he’ll relinquish his role as House majority leader. Republican leaders are meeting to wrestle with that issue this morning. Sources tell Fox News First that Cantor is expected to at least offer to step aside, but whether or not that’s what the conference wants is unclear. But, as the Daily Beast reports, “One thing is clear: The shuffle to replace Cantor has already begun. While Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the House majority whip and next in line behind Cantor, is sure to run for the upcoming vacancy, his election is not a foregone conclusion at this point. Look to former Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), conservative darling Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Pete Sessions (R-TX) as potential candidates to mount strong challenges.”

Giving them the business - WaPo: “The country's most powerful business lobbying groups already knew they had a problem with the GOP when Tea Party lawmakers nearly forced the country into a massive default of its debt last year. But with Eric Cantor's shocking defeat Tuesday night, things for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable just got a whole lot worse. For one, they lost a major defender of their favored policies--from the beneficial tax treatment of private equity income to immigration reforms favored by the country's biggest tech companies….It's true that Cantor enjoyed a strong relationship with business, especially with Wall Street. The industry that gave him the most campaign contributions was the securities and investment sector. Individuals from the private equity firm Blackstone were his biggest financial supporters. Cantor went to bat for the industry repeatedly over politically unpopular issues, including the taxation of income at private equity firms at the lower capital gains rate.”

WSJ: “The defeat Tuesday of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to an underfunded challenger who ran as an immigration opponent is likely to further weaken already shaky prospects the House will consider immigration legislation this summer. For months, Republicans have worried an immigration debate could make incumbents vulnerable to primary challenges from the right, and have put off any House action at least until after primary season. Tuesday’s primaries were the last hurdle before what was expected to be a final push by immigration advocates for action. Mr. Cantor’s defeat is likely to be seen as confirmation immigration politics are too dicey for this election year and may spook rank-and-file members who advocates have been pressing for support.”

But Obama can - “This is the end of the discussion about what's going to happen on any kind of immigration, anything in this Congress. It's a dead letter. It's not coming back because Eric Cantor's defeat has sealed that. The president has been threatening this all along which if the Republicans didn't give what he wanted he would carry through on executive action.” Chris Stirewalt on “The Kelly File”

The Hill: “Conservative hopefuls across the nation were claiming Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) primary challenger David Brat’s victory as their own Tuesday night. Radiologist Milton Wolf, challenging Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in his primary, and Tennessee state Rep. Joe Carr, running against Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), both said Brat’s stunning upset had implications for their own equally long-shot bids”.

Real Clear Science features Science 2.0’s Norm Benson as he hoists a cold one to thank beer for civilization: “Evidence mounts almost daily that beer started humans on the path to civilization even before the invention of agriculture some twelve thousand years ago. A paper in Evolutionary Anthropology says that, based on tests of artifacts, cereal grains were collected (sometimes from areas as far as sixty miles away) “for the purposes of brewing beer” to be used in feasts, which then “led to domestication...” That is, brewing led to the collecting of seeds for cultivation. And, feasts in prehistoric times were given for much the same reasons as they are today: to mark religious events or to impress others and also to make social, political, and commercial connections.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages

Obama Job Approval: Approve – 43 percent//Disapprove – 52.9 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 30 percent//Wrong Track – 62.8 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 41.8 percent// Republicans 41 percent

Fox News: “South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham fended off a field of Tea Party-backed challengers Tuesday night to win the state’s Republican primary and the right to try for a third term in November. The 58-year-old Graham was declared the winner by the Associated Press after taking about 57 percent of the vote with 96 percent of precincts reporting. State Sen. Lee Bright came in second, with about 15 percent. Graham, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent Republican senators in this year's cycle, needed at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff against one of his six opponents, all of whom had criticized him for not being conservative enough. But Graham, who has been in office since 2002, had a hefty fundraising advantage. He has raised more than $12 million since his last re-election bid, in 2008, while none of his opponents passed the $1 million mark. Graham will face Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto and Libertarian Victor Kocher in November in the largely conservative state.”

Republicans are hoping to pick up an additional six seats to gain control of the Senate this November. Which Democrat-held seats will prove to be the most likely flips for the red team? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. Fox News First reader Barbara Granger, who pointed to Alaska’s vulnerable Democratic Sen. Mark Begich early this year for Pick Six, gives a nod to Republican challenger Mead Treadwell while backing GOP frontrunner Dan Sullivan. “ I’ve known Mead Treadwell from working on winning campaigns together,” she writes, “but Dan is the only one for our senate seat!” Alaska’s primary is August 19.

Host Chris Stirewalt heads north to discuss the race to secure Senate state in Minnesota and Michigan.  Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn, heads into November with no clear GOP challenger yet, but will he be able to hold on the his seat in the land of 10,000 lakes? Watch Chris’s prediction here.

There were eight Democrats on the ballot vying to face Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev., in November, and state Economic Development Commissioner Robert Goodman should be fine with 25 percent, right?  Yes but, Goodman and the rest of the field were bested when the tally showed that Nevadans had turned up their noses and awarded the victory to “none of these candidates” with a 30 percent of the vote. Nevada allows its voters to select the “none of these candidates” in elections for President and statewide offices. Of course “none” can’t actually run, although some in the state think the law ought to be changed on that front, so Goodman gets the nod. But really, when 20,000 voters in your state are motivated to pull the lever for “none,” beating you by 3,600 votes, it has to take some of the sweetness out of your victory lap. Bolstered by Tuesday’s results, the democrat will take on Sandoval, Nevada's first Hispanic governor, who rolled to victory over four challengers with 90 percent of the vote and is expected to easily defeat Goodman to win a second term.

“The problem with Hillary Clinton that you see in this is her sort of intrinsic insincerity. She’s continually crafting what she says. Crafting what her position is going to be. Crafting her conduct to meet a certain perception. And when you do that day in and day out either on a book tour or on a campaign trail or anywhere in public office, you trip up because you can’t remember the last confection, the last creation of yourself that you put together.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report w/Bret Baier” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.