Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, was
easily beaten by college economics professor David Brat, who accused
Cantor of betraying conservative principles on spending, debt and
The result could halt efforts to craft a House immigration reform
bill, as nervous Republicans hustle to protect themselves against
future challenges from the right ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm
elections. It could also make Republicans even more hesitant to
cooperate with President Barack Obama and Democrats for fear of
being labeled a compromiser.
Cantor had been seen by many as an eventual successor to House
Speaker John Boehner, and his defeat will mean a shake-up in the
Republican leadership at the end of the year among House members
nervous about the depth of public anger toward Congress.
A seven-term congressman with ties to the financial industry, Cantor
had spent more than $5 million to head off the challenge from Brat,
a political newcomer who teaches at Randolph-Macon College.
Brat spent only about $122,000, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics, and was not seen in the media or national
Republican circles as a danger to Cantor.
The victory also emboldened conservative leaders, and could
encourage a challenge to Boehner when the new leadership team is
chosen. "Eric Cantor's loss tonight is an apocalyptic moment for the
GOP establishment. The grassroots is in revolt and marching," said
Brent Bozell, a veteran conservative activist and founder of the
Media Research Center and ForAmerica.
With nearly all precincts reporting, Brat had about 56 percent of
the vote to Cantor's 44 percent.
"I know there are a lot of long faces here tonight," Cantor told
supporters. "It's disappointing, sure."
Brat, speaking to an ecstatic crowd, said: "This is the happiest
moment, obviously, of my life."
BLOW TO REPUBLICAN ESTABLISHMENT
The result was a blow to the Republican establishment, which had
scored a string of victories over the Tea Party in primaries to
select candidates for the November elections. Republicans are hoping
to pick up six seats to gain a Senate majority, but are considered
heavy favorites to retain a House majority.
"We all saw how far outside the mainstream this Republican Congress
was with Eric Cantor at the helm, now we will see them run further
to the far right with the Tea Party striking fear into the heart of
every Republican on the ballot," said Representative Steve Israel of
New York, who heads the House Democratic campaign committee.
[to top of second column]
During the primary campaign, Brat repeatedly accused Cantor of
supporting some immigration reform principles, including "amnesty"
for undocumented workers. In response, Cantor had sent voters a
mailer boasting of his role in trying to kill a House immigration
bill that included that provision.
Brat also accused Cantor of losing touch with his central Virginia
district while serving the party's leadership.
Republican strategists suggested Cantor had been too slow to realize
how real the threat from Brat was.
"Easiest way to lose a campaign is to not take your opponent
seriously," strategist Matt Mackowiak said on Twitter.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on CNN that Cantor had
helped make Brat better known by attacking him by name in the late
stages of the campaign.
The result unleashed immediate speculation about a possible
replacement for Cantor when the House meets to pick new leaders at
the end of the year, including Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jeb Hensarling of
Texas and Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina also faced a Tea Party
challenge on Tuesday, but he beat a crowded field of six challengers
who also had accused him of not being conservative enough.
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Ron Popeski)
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