Eric Cantor Loses – Does A Georgian Win?

This is a website devoted to Georgia politics, but all politics is not local.  Eric Cantor lost his primary last night in a bid for re-election.  The Tea Party is claiming the scalp, despite the fact that they wouldn’t even take his opponent’s phone calls.  I guess they don’t want to talk about Lindsey Graham coasting to victory tonight.  Erick, writing over at Red State, explains that Cantor’s loss was really about local politics, and that Cantor spent more time focused on leadership than on his constituents.  Arguing over the narrative is fine if you want, but that’s not what affects us here.  At our home.  Georgia Politics.

Cantor’s loss ensures there will be an immediate leadership fight for the number two slot in the House.  It will also be setting up an eventual heir apparent to the Speaker’s position.  And may speed up the timing.  With Whip McCarthy expected to run for one of these spots, the top three positions of House leadership may be in play. Who is first into focus?  According to the New York Times, that would be our own Tom Price, or even Tom Graves.

With Mr. Cantor gone from the leadership suites, David Wasserman, an editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, predicted “a free-for-all” when House Republicans assemble after the November elections to pick their new leaders. At the very least, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 3 Republican, will seek to move up to majority leader, but he could also challenge Mr. Boehner.

More broadly, Mr. Cantor’s defeat will embolden conservatives like Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, who has openly complained that the leadership positions are occupied by Democratic or swing-state Republicans. The push will be for “red state” leadership.

Candidates could include Mr. Price, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and brash newcomers like Representative Tom Graves of Georgia, Mr. Wasserman said. The message is that the House must be run by more conservative leaders.

It’s clear that there is a sea change going on within Republican ranks of the US House.  And with that, the fortunes of many Congressmen have seen their stock rise and fall with the ebbing tides of each faction of conservatism.  In early 2013, there was a move to withhold votes from Speaker Boehner, with the rationale that if he didn’t get enough GOP votes on the first ballot, the “conservatives” could force another pick.

During this time, Congressman Price – while voting for Speaker – bucked Boehner’s choice for Conference Chairman against Cathy McMorris Rodgers.  While he was unsuccessful, it endeared Price to the rightward edges of the House GOP caucus.  Price’s career as a thoughtful “numbers” guy has allowed him to keep his street cred with those firmly entrenched within the establishment corners of the GOP controlled House.  He now has the respect of both camps, something that will be valuable to anyone who tries for one of these leadership posts.

Many D.C. insiders credit Boehner’s ability to hold on to power to Cantor, and him being the iron fist behind Boehner’s genuinely friendly and conciliatory nature.  With Cantor now out of the picture, the D.C. folks will likely begin to wonder if the Majority Leader’s position is the only one up for election.  Adding to the speculation is that many of Boehner’s inner circle:  Senators Saxby Chambliss and Tom Coburn as well as  Congressmen Tom Latham, Dave Camp, and Mike Rogers are leaving Congress.  Boehner may still have the fight in him.  Or, he could decide that enough is enough for his powerful but thankless position.

It should be noted that before Tom Price took over GA-6 from now Senator Isakson, the seat was held by none other than Speaker Newt Gingrich.  Price, like Gingrich, has looked at his career in the House with a long term plan toward leadership.  He’s currently set to move to the powerful House Budget Committee chairmanship, as Paul Ryan moves to Ways and Means.

Now, there is an open path upward, at least to Majority Leader.  The person who wins that seat – and the person who is the GOP’s heir apparent to be the next Speaker – will have the daunting task of trying to unite the Tea Party/anti-establishment factions of the GOP with the entrenched establishment members.  AND, for bonus points, will have to govern in such a way to maintain a majority for any of it to matter.

Good luck to Tom Price, or anyone else who wishes to receive and wins this position.  It’s unusual, to say the least, to have two if not all three of the top leadership slots openly contested when that party is in power.  As the old saying goes, “may you be cursed to live in interesting times.”


  1. John Konop says:

    One of the key issues on the tight rope between Tea Party vs. establishment will be immigration. On a national level as well as in the future resolving this helps the GOP in the long run…..But I do not think the next leader can show any form of compromise to get the open job……a big catch 22 for Tom or whoever is going after the job….

    • Dave Bearse says:

      No problems for Price. He’s on board with the GOP strategy dating to the “revolution” of 1994 to disassemble or damage the government when in power, and mindless obstructionism when in the minority.

      Price is a physician in the House leadership whose healthcare legislation doesn’t get a committee vote but can bring 50+ votes to the floor against Obamacare.

      Continued opposition to immigration works both side of the GOP’s strategy. It both damages government, and is mindless opposition.

      • seenbetrdayz says:

        Pardon me, but when has the GOP ever actually managed to disassemble gov’t when in power? I mean, I know that’s what they say they’ll do.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          Point generally conceded, though deregulation (with at least some Dem support) has occurred.

      • John Konop says:

        All should read…

        Rand Paul: ‘Amnesty’ a Muddled Term that Has ‘Trapped’ GOP

        …..”I think we’ve been somewhat trapped by rhetoric and words, and amnesty is a word that’s kind of trapped us,” Paul told reporters on a conference call organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration reform group.

        “We’re trapped in a word that means different things to different people, and the people who are opposed to all reform think amnesty means everything, and then other people think amnesty means another thing,” Paul added. “And I really think that some of it is we’re trapped in is rhetoric and that we have to get beyond that.” ……

  2. xdog says:

    Cantor never engaged Brat on immigration. Instead, he let Brat stage the debate so it was presented as amnesty vs no amnesty, which isn’t the issue at all. The result is gopers finally get their wish to kiss off the hispanic vote for a couple generations, just as they’ve kissed off blacks, women, gays.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      It was framed correctly for the bubble where legalizing illegals, even if they arrived years ago as kids and know no other country, is amnesty.

      • xdog says:

        That was my point. I guess I didn’t make it very clearly. Cantor never countered the bubble-brains’ mindset that immigration reform = ‘amnesty’. Of course goper primaries aren’t the place for nuance.

        The real takeaway from the primary is that Eric Cantor isn’t conservative enough for the republican party any more.

    • notsplost says:

      If we’re going to play the “who killed immigration reform” parlor game, let’s not forget Silicon Valley billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg who lobbied for all kinds of carve-outs in the Senate Bill to give themselves a perpetual stream of cheap H1-B labor.

      Not to mention the White House who insist on breaking the law by not enforcing existing immigration laws.

      • xdog says:

        Yeah, right. gopers have had several chances to pass a bill that would deal with the real problems of immigration, accept responsibility for the moral issues involved, and keep all but the true nutters on the reservation. Instead, they’ve dodged every opportunity to declare victory and go home, just so they could add yet another item to their ever-growing purity tests for candidates. Meanwhile the country suffers and gopers piss off another voting bloc for at least a couple of generations. Sounds like business as usual on the right.

  3. Dave Bearse says:

    Isn’t Graves the guy that has proposed reducing the federal gas tax by 80%?

    Another good GOP strategy choice because that legislation would clearly damage the country, but in the meantime Graves can obstruct anything concerning transportation funding other than continuing resolutions.

  4. beenthere says:

    “powerful” House Budget Committee….I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  5. Three Jack says:

    Great win for Brat! Even better watching DD and some others in the TP scramble to try and take credit despite writing this race off long ago.

    The media cannot point to Citizens United or the Koch Bros as reasons for Brat’s miraculous victory. It was truly a pound the pavement campaign with many volunteers canvassing the district while the incumbent continued to pursue his personal interests in DC. Cantor spent more on a couple of steak dinner fundraisers than Brat did throughout his entire campaign! Amazing.

    If TP leadership can put aside their collective egos long enough to study Brat’s campaign tactics, they would find the magic needed to revitalize their movement. It ain’t about how much money you can squeeze from suckers who actually believe their $25 check is helping specific campaigns. It is about hard work and meeting voters face-t0-face as Brat proved.

    • Three Jack says:

      Never mind the suggestion in my previous post about TP leadership changing course. I just received a fundraising email from TPP claiming credit for Brat’s victory and of course asking for money…’any little bit will help’. Apparently the target is Thad Cochran so it will be interesting to see how that race plays out since TPP is all in in Mississippi.

      TPP did not assist Dave Brat who surprisingly won in a landslide. TPP is all in against Thad Cochran in MS funneling money and volunteers to the Chris McDaniel campaign. If Cochran wins, TPP is all but dead and should only look to the closest mirror to find who is at fault.

  6. DrGonzo says:

    If only we could have gotten McConnell. But this is good news. At the least it will put the establishment wing on notice that they CAN be beaten. Happy to see so much special interest money spent in vain on Cantor as well.

    • notsplost says:

      The loss of Cantor will do real damage to the Chamber of Commerce’s agenda. They may have had to divert resources to defend McConnell and overlooked the Cantor/Brat race.

  7. Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

    I will bet real money that it will not be any of the GA names. Some PR firm is pushing them to raise their profiles. It’s either going to be Whip Kevin MCCarthy R-CA, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), conservative darling Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), and Pete Sessions (R-TX) as candidates.

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