Second, the optics of spending money against a member of your own party is never good, especially when GOP leadership has been critical of conservative outside groups for occasionally targeting too-moderate incumbents. There's been debate within GOP circles on how much money the YG Action Fund will have to spend in Congressional races. Many Republican operatives believe the limited resources would have been better saved against a Democratic candidate in a general election.
And it's not like Manzullo was the safest member to bet on, given the political makeup of the district in the first place. The newly-drawn 16th District contains 44 percent of Manzullo's old district, and 31 percent of Kinzinger's old seat. Kinzinger began this race from behind. The congressman's own campaign was underwhelming, burdened by poorly-produced television ads
that underplayed the freshman's impressive biography.
Third, if Cantor was going to take the bold step of endorsing against a colleague, he should've gone all in. The super PAC's five-figure radio buy on Kinzinger's behalf was enough money to draw significant attention, but not significant enough to make a real dent in the race.
And perhaps most importantly, Cantor's own standing within the caucus could be adversely impacted. Manzullo raised the specter of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy
being steamed with Cantor over his involvement in this race, in an interview with Politico
. A Boehner aide noted that the speaker has given to both Manzullo and Kinzinger -- first to Kinzinger and then, on March 16 to Manzullo, just as conservative groups starting raising hell about Cantor's involvement.
Billy House contributed to this report.