There are three ways to look at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor‘s (R) stunning primary defeat Tuesday in VA-07: short-term, medium-term, and long-term. We’ve tried them all in the last few hours.
— In the short run, Republican incumbents are going to get jumpy. There just isn’t as much safety in “safe seats” anymore. Cantor may be just the second incumbent to go down, but as we’ve noted earlier, members are finishing below 60% in their primaries with increasing frequency. (While everyone was watching Mississippi last week, for example, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) quietly won his primary by just 8 points.) Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) is one of several incumbents in upcoming primaries who’ve had past primary struggles; look for an uptick in activity from them to avoid becoming the next big surprise as Cantor gets their attention.
— In the medium term, nervous incumbents probably means legislating will probably be a quiet business the rest of the year, and maybe beyond for the House GOP majority. Especially given Dave Brat‘s (R) focus on immigration, any movement on that issue looks especially unlikely (even though Senate “Gang of 8” co-author Lindsey Graham (R) breezed through his SC primary Tuesday).
— It’s difficult to ascribe potential long-term effects to a single House primary, though the first-ever primary defeat for a House majority leader will ripple the pond more than most. The situation points to a disconnect between true “tea party” grassroots energy and the national “tea party” groups that didn’t glance twice at this race (but will probably raise lots of money off Brat’s victory). And the punishment doled out to Cantor for not remaining in touch with his grassroots base highlights a looming issue for 2016 presidential candidates who are already spending a lot of energy wooing big-money donors.
This doesn’t even get into the internal politics of replacing Cantor (and possibly others) in House GOP leadership. But his defeat has implications throughout national politics.
— Scott Bland
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