Eric Cantor Lost Even As the National Tea-Party Groups Sat on Their Hands

Movement leader says tea party can ‘strike anywhere.’

A crowd gathers at the World War Two Memorial to support a rally centered around reopening national memorials closed by the government shutdown, supported by military veterans, Tea Party activists and Republicans, on October 13, 2013 in Washington, DC. The rally was inspired by a desire to re-open national memorials, including the World War Two Memorial in Washington DC, though the rally also focused on the government shutdown and frustrations against President Obama.
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
June 10, 2014, 6:57 p.m.

Eric Can­tor’s stun­ning de­feat on Tues­day came even as the na­tion­al tea-party groups ba­sic­ally sat out the race, spend­ing less than $10,000 against the soon-to-be former ma­jor­ity lead­er.

“The tea-party groups wer­en’t help­ing,” com­plained con­ser­vat­ive ra­dio host Laura In­gra­ham on Fox News shortly after Can­tor’s de­feat.

In­stead, Can­tor was toppled by un­der­fun­ded Ran­dolph-Ma­con Col­lege eco­nom­ics pro­fess­or Dave Brat on the strength of loc­al con­ser­vat­ive grass­roots act­iv­ists and the mega­phones of some lead­ing con­ser­vat­ive com­ment­at­ors, in­clud­ing In­gra­ham and fel­low ra­dio host Mark Lev­in.

The total out­side spend­ing against Can­tor in­cluded a mere $905 from Amer­ic­ans for Leg­al Im­mig­ra­tion PAC, which is op­posed to im­mig­ra­tion re­form that in­cludes a path to cit­izen­ship, and $7,800 from the We De­serve Bet­ter PAC.

That’s it.

The fact that the No. 2 Re­pub­lic­an in the House could be de­feated even without the in­ter­ven­tion of the na­tion’s biggest tea-party groups is a sign of the move­ment’s power, said Sal Russo, chief strategist for Tea Party Ex­press, which was not in­volved in the race.

“The strength of the tea party is that it is a grass­roots move­ment, and there are 3,000 tea-party groups, and they each make their own de­cisions,” Russo said in an in­ter­view. “They can strike any­where. It’s not de­pend­ent on a top-down dir­ec­tion.”

Still, In­gra­ham, who cam­paigned for Brat in the Rich­mond-area Vir­gin­ia dis­trict, called out a laun­dry list of na­tion­al tea-party groups for their fail­ure to help him. “I don’t be­lieve any of these or­gan­iz­a­tions did any­thing for Dav­id Brat,” she said on Fox. In­gra­ham, spe­cific­ally called out Jenny Beth Mar­tin, who heads Tea Party Pat­ri­ots, say­ing Brat “couldn’t get her on the phone.”

In an ex­tens­ive in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al earli­er Tues­day, Mar­tin did not men­tion the Can­tor race as among the tea party’s top op­por­tun­it­ies in 2014. Hours after his de­feat, however, Mar­tin is­sued a tri­umphant state­ment con­grat­u­lat­ing Brat and “the loc­al tea-party act­iv­ists who helped pro­pel him over the top.”

“This vic­tory is a ref­er­en­dum on the es­tab­lish­ment that has gone along with policies that have com­pletely left out the voice of the people,” she said. “This is the people’s house and we are re­claim­ing it for the people.”

Up­date: Mar­tin said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day that In­gra­ham is in­cor­rect. Mar­tin said that she and Tea Party Pat­ri­ots staff met with Brat in May but that they de­cided to fo­cus their re­sources on Sen­ate races.

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