Eric Cantor. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, has
lost to a Tea Party challenger in a stunning Republican primary
upset that sent shockwaves through Congress and gave the
conservative movement a landmark victory.
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 immigration.
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
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
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
"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 ESTABLISMENT
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
"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.
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.
US 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