OpinionOpinion L.A.
Opinion

It could be that Eric Cantor's problem was Cantor himself

PoliticsElectionsImmigrationIllegal ImmigrantsTea Party MovementRepublican Party
Could Eric Cantor's electoral problem have been the candidate himself?
Poll suggests Eric Cantor may have been beaten by his own weakening base

Eric Cantor’s primary loss Tuesday in Virginia came as a huge surprise, particularly to Cantor. Immigration was the culprit, according to the early analysis. And though Cantor’s defeat likely kills immigration reform for this year, it doesn’t seem as though that was the issue that did him in among his district voters.

It turns out that Cantor’s electoral problem may have been Cantor himself.

A poll by the Public Policy Polling group found that immigration reform is fairly popular in his district. But Cantor himself isn’t. The poll has some fundamental problems — it was automated by phone, and commissioned by an activist organization, Americans United for Change — so should be viewed with some skepticism. But the arc of the findings is interesting.

Half of the Republicans polled disapproved of the job the Republican House leadership was doing, and about the same proportion disapproved of the job Cantor was doing. At the same time, 70% of Republicans in the poll said they supported some sort of immigration reform.

That rate dovetails somewhat with the findings last June in a Public Religion Research Institute poll that 62% of Americans supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a more specific question than supporting immigration reform (a broad question that could get a "yes" answer from people who think the laws should be stronger and the hurdles higher).

As my colleague Doyle McManus pointed out as the results were coming in Tuesday night, voter turnout was a factor, with about 65,000 people voting. In Cantor’s last contested primary in 2012, turnout was lower, just over 47,000. But Cantor drew 37,369 of those votes. On Tuesday, he drew only 29,000 votes, suggesting that as the tea party was bringing out voters for David Brat, the challenger, Cantor’s people were staying home. And low-turnout races are susceptible to upsets and surprises.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as though anyone did exit polling in the district, probably because nobody thought it would be a race worth examining. So it’s unclear whether Brat’s singular issue — opposing immigration reform — was what drove people to the polls or whether (and this seems more likely) tea party organizers outperformed whatever ground game Cantor’s campaign put together.

It could well be that immigration was a galvanizing issue for the tea party voters, though that is but one issue popular with that set. But it was not the issue that moved the district at large.

Or, rather, that failed to move the district. If we can believe the Public Policy Polling group’s numbers on unfavorable feelings for Cantor and the House leadership in general, then Cantor did himself in. The takeaway could well be that unless there is a change in congressional GOP attitudes and leadership style, more members could lose the support of their own people, handing more power to the tea party folks and exacerbating the Republican schism. Which makes it hard to envision a cohered and effective Republican White House campaign in 2016.

Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
PoliticsElectionsImmigrationIllegal ImmigrantsTea Party MovementRepublican Party
  • Is English getting dissed?
    Is English getting dissed?

    Is the English language being massacred by the young, the linguistically untidy and anyone who uses the Internet? Absolutely.

  • A mother's Southern discomfort
    A mother's Southern discomfort

    My daughter, Thea, a cellist, is spending the summer in Montgomery, Ala. She was thrilled to land a job there playing in the orchestra at Montgomery's Shakespeare Festival.

  • 'Too big to fail' equals 'too eager to borrow'
    'Too big to fail' equals 'too eager to borrow'

    Four years ago this month, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, promising that the 848-page financial law would "put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all," he said. But recently, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a Detroit crowd that "the biggest...

  • Anti-poverty talk from conservative Paul Ryan?
    Anti-poverty talk from conservative Paul Ryan?

    Quick quiz: Which potential 2016 presidential candidate had this to say about federal anti-poverty programs last week?

  • Let's look at the death penalty with statistics instead of emotion
    Let's look at the death penalty with statistics instead of emotion

    The horror show on Arizona’s death row this week has deservedly raised yet another national debate over the death penalty, particularly lethal injections by states scrambling for fresh killing agents as they find it harder to procure tried-and-true execution drugs.

  • Calling all opinionated poets
    Calling all opinionated poets

    Last year, when we asked readers to submit opinion poetry, we were overwhelmed. More than 1,500 poets answered the call, many with multiple entries. The poems we received dealt with every issue of the day, including the war on terror, the economy, the nanny state, student debt and the...

Comments
Loading