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Brat Beats Cantor: Another View

After our post the other day on Laura Ingraham’s pivotal role in Economics Professor Dave Brat’s unexpected victory over Eric Cantor, a Dartmouth parent wrote in with a different point of view:

I read with interest your note on Laura Ingraham [‘85]. I am a VA-7 resident and I voted in the June 10 GOP primary. Only in hindsight can I say what follows because I had no inkling that Brat would win. I know a lot about the sentiment regarding Eric Cantor, and I don’t think Laura Ingraham, much as I respect her, or immigration, are what put Brat over the top, despite media reports. Ingraham hardly has a radio presence in VA-7. There is not a radio station within 60 miles of Richmond that carries her show.

As for immigration and amnesty, I reviewed some of David Brat’s campaign literature that was sent to me. Immigration was not emphasized any more than seven or eight other issues. Quite simply Cantor had been losing favor with the GOP base in the district for a number of years and ultimately lost their trust. In return, his campaign treated GOP voters as gullible morons by characterizing Brat as the stereotypical “liberal college professor”, which he clearly is not. There were other gross distortions as well that just didn’t make sense for an entrenched incumbent to be making.

The volume of mail for Cantor was unlike anything I have seen in any election, and this was a GOP primary. I must have received fifteen mailings in the three weeks prior to election day including an eight-page, full-color Eric Cantor life story printed on glossy paper. It literally had a photo of Eric as a young boy.

A congressman should not feel the need to introduce himself to the party members that elected him seven times. The barrage of radio and TV ads was launched three months prior to the election. None of this made sense. I think Cantor’s loss was a one-off election. Hard as it is to believe, Cantor was a weak incumbent with a lousy campaign message amplified by millions of dollars. Brat was a reasonable alternative.

I do not think this small election — only 36,000 people voted for Brat — marks the resurrection of the Tea Party or any other national trend. Take away Laura Ingraham or take away the immigration issue and I believe Brat would still have won.

Addendum: A concerned reader wrote in to ask my view of a post in the Jewish Daily Forward that asserted that there was an anti-Semitic element in Brat’s victory. In response to a query, my above correspondent commented on that issue, too:

I haven’t ever heard anti-Semitic remarks regarding Eric Cantor in any of his campaigns. I would be surprised if that was a factor, but there are always ignorant cranks, I suppose. I was fortunate to have grown up in a mixed religion area that included a large Jewish population. In fact, the school system here shuts down on Yom Kippur.

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