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Friday, June 13, 2014

Cantor defeat: Chico’s Bail Bonds beats Goldman Sachs

Telegraph Editorial

There seem to be almost as many opinions about Tuesday’s stunning upset of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as there are people with accounts on Twitter.

Cantor, R-Va., was defeated in the Republican primary election by David Brat, until Tuesday a relatively unknown economics professor at Randolph-Macon College who was given no shot at unseating Cantor. The incumbent had the backing of every Gucci-wearing big-money lobbyist in Washington. ...

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There seem to be almost as many opinions about Tuesday’s stunning upset of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor as there are people with accounts on Twitter.

Cantor, R-Va., was defeated in the Republican primary election by David Brat, until Tuesday a relatively unknown economics professor at Randolph-Macon College who was given no shot at unseating Cantor. The incumbent had the backing of every Gucci-wearing big-money lobbyist in Washington.

Cantor raised more than $5 million in this election cycle, while Brat had taken in less than $300,000.

According to the website Opensecrets.org, the top donors to Cantor were Goldman Sachs, the Blackstone Group and the tobacco company Altria Group. The list also includes Citigroup, Verizon and the usual lineup of utilities, insurance companies, capital investment firms, drug giants and other industries that have hijacked the political process of late.

Brat’s top donors, according to Opensecrets? Baugh Auto Body, which bills itself as “The Best Auto Body Shop in Richmond, Virginia.”

That reminds us a little of the movie “Bad News Bears,” starring Walter Matthau as a youth league baseball coach whose players take the field wearing jerseys sponsored by “Chico’s Bail Bonds.”

There are a lot of theories out there that seek to explain how a political thoroughbred backed by mighty Goldman Sachs was outrun by a dark horse funded by Baugh Auto Body.

Some say Brat “stripped the bark” off Cantor, to use an old Lee Atwater term, by pounding away at the incumbent’s position on immigration reform and suggesting that Cantor supported “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Then there are those who say it was the support Brat drew from conservative commentators in the weeks leading up to the election -- a conclusion that conveniently shows the tea party to be alive and well. There was some doubt about that after tea party candidates in several other races failed to pick off all but one congressional incumbent before the Virginia upset.

There’s another theory that says Cantor was voted out because he lost touch with his district – a claim that seems self-evident – and voters were fed up with the congressman’s cozy relationship with the lobbyists who were bankrolling his career.

The truth is, nobody knows for certain why Cantor lost, but the very fact that it is such a huge political story is further evidence of the dominance that money has on the election process. Cantor’s defeat – and the political world’s reaction to it – is the exception that proves the rule.

What is even more striking is that the vote wasn’t close. Brat whipped the sitting House Majority Leader by a double-digit spread. You can call it an upset, but when you have a margin like that, you can’t call it a fluke.

It was somewhat amusing to watch the outcome ripple through New Hampshire, where politicians seemed to have an explanation that made it clear that the lessons of the Virginia race favor the chances of their candidate or candidates.

“This foreshadows bad news for Scott Brown and Walt Havenstein,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, referring to Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and governor, respectively.

Dan Innis, a GOP House candidate in the First Congressional District, said the Brat win was proof that “a campaign war chest matters less than a hard-working candidate with a good message.”

And in the Second Congressional District, Republican candidate Gary Lambert declared: “People are tired of business as usual in Washington.”

Everybody has a theory, but that last comment seems true enough.