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June 11, 2014

Cantor loses in primary shocker

By Robert Costa, Laura Vozzella and David A. Fahrenthold

The Washington Post

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Va., the chamber's second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent.

Cantor, who has represented the Richmond suburbs since 2001, lost by 11 percentage points to Dave Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. It was an operatic fall from power, swift and deep and utterly surprising. As late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls.

By Tuesday night, he had suffered a defeat with few parallels in American history. Historians said that no House leader of Cantor's rank had ever been defeated in a primary.

That left stunned Republicans — those who had supported Cantor, and even those who had worked to beat him — struggling to understand what happened.

Several said they believed that Cantor had mismanaged his campaign, with a strategy in which he was too aloof and his tactics too aggressive. In Virginia, some Republicans perceived him as having grown removed from his 7th Congressional District, spending too much time on national fundraising and Washington infighting.

"Cantor's field effort was nonexistent. You didn't see a heavy Cantor presence at Shad Planking, one of the premier Virginia GOP events, and the movers-shakers in the group he works with, YG Virginia, did not have the staff to fully compete," said Andrew Xifos, a Virginia Republican organizer. "Brat was always an afterthought to them, even as they spent a lot of money. Central Virginia politics was changing around them and they did not see it."

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