When the House majority leader spends millions of dollars on a reelection campaign — especially against a little-known political novice who is not considered a serious threat — the national media are sure to notice.
That’s not because Rep. Eric Cantor’s challenger, Randolph-Macon College economics professor Dave Brat, has begun to show some unexpected momentum. Quite the contrary: Cantor’s campaign spokesman is right when he says his boss is “well-known, well-liked, and well-respected” in his district. And he’s certainly expected to win.
Instead, the contest has drawn such outsize attention in large part because of the effort Cantor felt he had to pump into it, running hard for the kind of safe seat party leaders once could take for granted. And for that he can thank immigration reform.
Indeed, Cantor has expended unusual effort (and funds) against a seemingly harmless opponent, going to the trouble of running negative TV ads and sending mailers defending his position on immigration legislation after Brat successfully directed the debate away from local jobs and toward a national issue.
It’s yet another piece of evidence that nominating contests are no longer completely friendly territory for Washington operators. While party leaders used to rule over local politics while dealing with messy legislative sausage-making in Washington, they are now getting into the mud with increasing frequency at the local level.
For instance, Cantor’s campaign referred to Brat as a “liberal college professor,” which FactCheck.org called “misleading.” Plus, Cantor sent mailers to voters saying that he was working to stop “the Obama-Reid plan to give illegal aliens amnesty” despite his own support for a path to legalization for children brought to the country illegally.
Brat campaign spokesman Allen Wagner accused Cantor of misleading voters by supporting that measure while his ads said he opposes amnesty. “He won’t stand on his record,” Wagner said.
But Cantor campaign spokesman Ray Allen said the campaign wanted to focus less on immigration and more on job creation, but that conservative news sites, like The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com, covered the race’s immigration angle closely, calling attention to it for the purpose of attacking a GOP party leader.
Cantor’s campaign may have hit a low point in May, as it responded to Brat’s immigration attacks — and as Cantor failed to get a friend elected as chairman of the district Republican Party. The Washington Post described the race as “open warfare” with the tea party. But Allen said episodes like that were ultimately a distraction from the issues that will drive local voters to the primary polls and result in another reelection for Cantor.
“The glitterati doesn’t want to talk about those [economic] issues,” Allen said, “because it doesn’t view them as sexy.”
Cantor’s team dismisses suggestions that Cantor is running harder than he needs to, or has before. Allen said the campaign has mostly operated normally, noting the No. 2 House Republican runs ads each cycle.
And at least one outside group that has opened its checkbook for Cantor agreed. The American Chemistry Council spent more than $300,000 supporting Cantor, which is among the larger expenditures by a single group in a primary this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But ACC spokeswoman Anne Kolton said the group first started running ads supporting Cantor in August 2011 and that it regularly runs ads that support people and policies that are favorable to the manufacturing industry. “It’s not dissimilar from the work that we do throughout the election cycle,” Kolton said.
But Cantor has certainly spent more heavily this time around — about a million dollars between April 1 and May 21. By comparison, in 2012, when Cantor won reelection with 79 percent of the vote, he spent $746,000.
What We're Following See More »
U.S. District Judge William Orrick Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing part of an executive order calling for the end of federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities. The decision was followed by a scathing rebuke from the White House, a precedent-breaking activity which with this White House has had no qualms. A White House statement called the decision an "egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge." The statement was followed by an inaccurate Wednesday morning tweetstorm from Trump, which railed against the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. While Judge Orrick district falls within the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, Orrick himself does not serve on the Ninth Circuit.
"House Republicans are circulating the text of an amendment to their ObamaCare replacement bill that they believe could bring many conservatives on board. According to legislative text of the amendment," drafted by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), "the measure would allow states to apply for waivers to repeal one of ObamaCare’s core protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Conservatives argue the provision drives up premiums for healthy people, but Democrats—and many more moderate Republicans—warn it would spark a return to the days when insurance companies could charge sick people exorbitantly high premiums."
President Trump on Wednesday "will order a review of national monuments created over the past 20 years with an aim toward rescinding or resizing some of them—part of a broader push to reopen areas to drilling, mining, and other development." Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters on Tuesday said he'd be reviewing about 30 monuments.
"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."
The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.