Big upset: No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor loses primary

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(CNN) — In what’s being called a political “earthquake,” the No. 2 Republican in the House, Eric Cantor, lost his primary on Tuesday to a college professor and tea party neophyte.

Cantor conceded the race with 99% of precincts reporting from the Richmond-area district showing him trailing Dave Brat 56% to 44%, according to the Virginia Secretary of State’s website. Turnout was low.

“Obviously we came up short,” Cantor said in his concession speech.

“It’s disappointing sure but I believe in this country. I believe there is opportunity around the next corner for all of us,” said Cantor, whose loss is all the more shocking because he’s considered very conservative.

Mark Preston, CNN’s executive political editor, said the defeat would have national implications since Cantor has been viewed as ambitious and a potential speaker.

“This came out of nowhere,” Preston said.

CNN Political Analyst David Gergen called it an “earthquake” that would “send shock waves through the Republican ranks.”

Graham wins in South Carolina

Although the tea party won big in the Old Dominion, it met defeat in South Carolina, where incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham easily topped the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

Graham had some advantages heading into the contest: He had a massive war chest — around $8 million cash on hand, which gave him a huge campaign cash advantage over his primary opponents — and outside groups have steered clear of the race, unlike in Mississippi where establishment and tea party groups fought.

“Leadership and problem solving comes with some political risk. You get a bunch of people running against you, but I’m here to tell you, it’s very much worth it,” Graham said in his victory speech.

A boost for the right

Brat’s victory is another tea party blockbuster, reminiscent of its banner year in 2010 when those conservatives swept Republicans to control of the House.

Most recently, Republican candidate Chris McDaniel in Mississippi gained more votes than longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and forced a runoff, which McDaniel is expected to win.

Another notable conservative takeover was in 2012 when tea party favorite Ted Cruz defeated Texas Lt. Gov David Dewhurst in the state’s Senate GOP primary. Dewhurst had support of most Texas mainstream Republicans. ‎

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash said the outcome in Cantor’s race will reenergize the tea party fueled right and disrupt attempts to bridge gaps between arch conservatives and establishment Republicans in Congress.

It could also cloud any prospects the White House and moderates might have for any legislative gains, Bash said.

“This will throw it all up in the air,” Bash noted.

Most Republicans viewed Cantor, 51, as the most conservative member in the House leadership and a potential successor to Boehner. Two sources familiar with the thinking of House Speaker John Boehner told Bash that it is now less likely with Cantor out of the picture that he will retire.

Voters rose up

Although Cantor dramatically outspent Brat in a race most political observers anticipated he would win, the cash advantage didn’t affect the outcome.

CNN “Crossfire” host Newt Gingrich suggested that a large part of Cantor’s constituency in Virginia’s reliably conservative 7th Congressional District concluded that he wasn’t listening and rose up to toss him out.

Losing, Gingrich said, was by no means the end of his political career, noting that he has a “great record,” is a hard worker and could come back, if he wants to down the road.

Cantor was President Barack Obama’s chief foil in budget negotiations in 2011, a role he proudly pointed out during this campaign season.

Promised a shocker

Brat, who predicted a shocker on Tuesday, is an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College. His Democratic opponent in November, Jack Trammell, also teaches at the school outside Richmond. Trammell was nominated at a party convention and is thought to have a very though road ahead.

In a phone interview with CNN on Monday, Brat argued that Cantor was more attentive to donors in New York and California and big business groups than he is to enacting an agenda based on Republican ideals.

“While he’s got an eye on the speaker job, he’s turned his back on his constituents,” Brat said.

He noted that Cantor and other GOP leaders have dropped their free market principles and not done enough to address looming deficit problems.

Brat attempted to frame his challenge as another case of a grassroots conservative taking on the GOP establishment, a major theme in Republican contests this year.

He has tried to make immigration reform the central issue, and said Cantor’s position would hurt the economy.

Brat said Cantor’s campaign ads actually elevated his name and helped his low-budget campaign, which was supported by some heavyweights in conservative media.

By Deirdre Walsh

CNN’s Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.

5 comments

  • TheREALByeBye2TheSickoRite

    Wow, more proof the Republicans are split, and the dangerous radical conservative extremists have enough money – er, I mean support – to out-spend – er, I mean defeat – other just slightly less extreme conservatives!

    This may be a good thing: Put a few of those extremists in there, let them open their mouths and put forth their radical right-wing agendas of more guns and even more tax cuts for the wealthy and crack downs on immigrants, and let the American people see what they REALLY are.

    Once Americans see them in action, it will finally wake up the “sleeping silent majority” in this country who have stopped voting (can’t blame them) who will get out now to defeat all these sick wackos.

    In Virginia, for example, I think this opens the door to the Democrat – do the majority of people really want a flaming NRA radical in there? Of course, we know most Cantor voters will still vote for the radical, but this may also fire up the people against him who didn’t bother to vote, who will turn out in droves to vote against the Tea Party.

    Either way, wow could we be more split or what? Just remember: United we stand, divided we COLLAPSE. Here’s to a bright future in America – not.

  • dbhbk1

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but this scares the hell out of me. The tea party is picking up more and more support from the radicals in the Republican Party. I was told by one of my teachers, a long time ago, that the United States would never be conquered from the outside, it would fall from within. Those words are haunting me now!

    • Mascoutan

      Who you call “radical” are the ones that hold the true conservative values, i.e.: our Constitution, liberties, freedoms, God, family and a decent country. If you want radical, just look at what the progressive/liberals are doing to destroy our country. Try and defend the horrid job the current administration is doing or all of the scandals that have been foisted upon, We the People. It is time for our Government to serve us, not the way it is becomeing for us to serve the Government. BTW – the “sick wacko” above doesn’t have the 1st clue as to what he/she is advocating.

      • dbhbk1

        More than 50 times, the tea party Republicans wasted precious time in Congress trying to overturn ” Obama care”, which is a law. What do you call that? I guess the tea party thinks that if they keep beating a dead horse in Congress, it will eventually pass. Look at all the other dumb stuff that the tea party has done Congress. Congress can’t get anything done as long as these people keeps disrupting the process.

  • Groovy Chick

    Thank God for a strong loyal opposition! Those teapartiers would not even exist if the extreme liberal, illegal immigrant vote getting, baby killing, economy destroying, constitution hating, military hating, arrogant jerks in power now had been good statesmen, and not just following their leaders into hell. The teapartiers and those who understand their point of view would be busy throwing parties and going on vacations and spending their spare time hanging out with their kids and having fun, but they feel the need to fight for their kid’s future instead.

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