The meaning of Cantor’s defeat? I have no idea

 

Every political pundit in the country is, right now, writing about what House majority leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in Tuesday’s Republican primary means. But how sure can we be that we know what it means? Essentially none of the pundits, including me, had any inkling that he was going to lose — let alone lose, as he did, by a large margin.

It is easy enough to attribute his defeat to the sentiment among conservatives that Cantor is not sufficiently hostile to an amnesty for illegal immigrants, and that the Republican establishment is too squishy: too willing to raise the debt ceiling, vote for bank bailouts, and so on.

But then why did Sen. Lindsey Graham, who vocally championed the immigration bill while Cantor distanced himself from it, win walking away in conservative South Carolina? Why did Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is just as much an establishment figure as Cantor, and more favorable to the immigration bill, thump his primary opponent a few weeks ago?

Was the difference that Cantor was caught napping? It sure didn’t look as though he was taking the race for granted. He spent so much money on attack ads against David Brat, the college economics professor who defeated him, that Brat’s supporters took to saying that Cantor was running scared.

Was it then the openness of the primary — the fact that Democrats could vote in it — that cost Cantor the seat? A lot of elections feature loose talk about strategic voting in the other party’s primary, but it rarely amounts to much.

I don’t have a satisfactory answer yet, but I’m not going to trust anyone who makes a confident pronouncement about what this election means unless he saw this result coming.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a senior editor for National Review, where he has covered national politics for 18 years, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a resident fellow at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

© 2014, Bloomberg News

Read more From Our Inbox stories from the Miami Herald

  • Ex-Im Bank fight not exactly a battle royal

    The excitement is building. Only a few more weeks until the long-awaited mid-term elections, which Republicans hope will mean they take over the Senate and smite President Barack Obama even harder.

  • Ten truths about day jobs

    1. Never look down on somebody who holds a job and rides the bus to the end of the line. These are the people who labor their whole lives but are never rewarded with tangible success. Not every dog has its day; some simply work their tails off. My father was one of those guys: never missed a day, never missed a beat and barely made a dime. But he taught my brother and me how to get a job done. Old Italians would grab their kids and say, “The more you have in there,” pointing to our heads, “the less you have to put on there,” pointing to our backs. My brother and I benefited from my father’s integrity, his stamina and his gratitude for having a job.

  • When the world blows up, blame hip-hop

    It was only a matter of time. A violent convergence of domestic and international events has us all feeling as if the world is falling off its axis. Headlines telling of rioters rocking Ferguson, Mo., are intersected with constant flashes of black-masked Islamic State marauders leaving bloody trails of decapitated heads as they pillage the Middle Eastern desert. And in the inevitable reach to explain the Four Horsemen chaos of assorted colored folk shaking it up, the best dissertation the mainstream media can find is that it must be hip-hop’s fault.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category