I know that headline’s egregiously incorrect, I just … wanted to experience it. Just once.
There is, I suppose, a slim chance that Grahamnesty could lose tonight, if by “lose” you mean “finish just shy of an absolute majority and end up in a runoff.” That would give tea partiers a glimmer of hope that South Carolinians, forced to make a binary choice in a few weeks between Graham and any other Republican in the country, would choose correctly. They won’t, though. Read this post from a few months ago to see why. Graham, to his credit, took nothing for granted in his reelection bid. He pulled every lever of power he has to protect his seat. In fact, aside from the occasional burbling about impeachment to reassure conservatives that he’s kinda sorta One Of Us, the most striking thing about his campaign is how little pandering he’s done to tea partiers. As he said himself, “I didn’t back off from being me.” That’s how confident he is of winning this race, all of his amnesty/ultrainterventionist baggage notwithstanding. The founder of a tea-party group in Columbia, South Carolina, predicts that he’s going to win the nomination outright tonight, even though he’s facing no less than six different challengers who could, in theory, force a runoff without any one of them reaching double digits. I think that’s right. In fact, I’m going to guess he takes 60 percent. Easily the tea party’s lowest moment this year, the McConnell/Bevin race included.
As for Cantor, people like Laura Ingraham and Mickey Kaus have been fighting the good fight on air and online for weeks in trying to drum up interest in his challenger, Dave Brat. For good reason: This race has, to some extent, become a referendum on amnesty, particularly Cantor’s enthusiasm for the sort of DREAM amnesty that’s now created a humanitarian crisis at the border. The better Brat does, the sterner the warning to House Republicans that an amnesty this summer could be painful this fall. Brat’s done a nice job making Cantor sweat, forcing him to spend more and fight dirtier — replete with a few well-placed bald-faced lies — than anyone expected. Realistically, though, an unknown candidate’s not beating the House majority leader in a primary. No undecided voter is going to forfeit the influence their district has in the House right now in order to roll the dice on Brat. The best we can hope for is a race that’s closer than expected, so that the GOP House caucus sits up and takes notice, but I think we’re going to end up disappointed here too. I’m guessing Cantor takes 65-70 percent, capping a glorious night for fans of immigration reform.
Update: I’m cooking up some tasty crow to feast on. Eric Cantor is in on life support early in VA-7.
Is this really a slam dunk for Cantor? 26 of 37 precincts in from Chesterfield County & Cantor trails by 1042 votes
— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) June 10, 2014
I am speechless.
— Sean T at RCP (@SeanTrende) June 10, 2014
#VA07 Cantor (R) badly needs big margins in Richmond City & Henrico, but right now it's far from clear that will be enough…
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) June 10, 2014
Right now, I just don't see where Cantor (R) can make up his 58%-42% deficit. This would be the biggest House upset I've ever seen. #VA07
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) June 10, 2014
The House majority leader could be going down — in a primary. Biggest House upset ever?
Update: He’s not closing the gap. This is really happening.
51.44 pct of vote in: Brat 58% Cantor 42%. #va07
— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) June 10, 2014
Media coverage of young illegals pouring over the border in Texas the past few months, whether induced by DREAM and DACA or not, may have ended up killing him. Show of hands, House Republicans: Who’s up for passing amnesty this summer now?
Update: Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight thinks Cantor is dunzo. Am I awake?
Update: Election expert Dave Wasserman says it’s over:
I've seen enough, it's over. Sitting Majority Leader of the House, Rep. Eric Cantor (R), has lost his primary to Prof. Dave Brat (R) #VA07
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) June 10, 2014
Update: Cantor outspent Brat by about 14 to one over the last few weeks. I’m honestly speechless. This is a political earthquake.
Can we retire the “tea party is dead” storyline now?
Update: No one saw it coming, Cantor’s team included:
Cantor aides did not appear to be sweating this primary challenge at all earlier today
— Deirdre Walsh (@deirdrewalshcnn) June 10, 2014
Update: Slublog suggests Tom Foley’s defeat in 1994 as an upset to rival this one. True — beating a sitting Speaker is almost unheard of. But ’94 was also the year of a giant GOP wave and Foley lost very narrowly. Cantor’s race is sui generis in an election season where establishment Republicans have done well against tea partiers. And he’s not losing narrowly. He’s getting obliterated.
Update: I know you’re wondering, but rest easy. Virginia does have a “sore loser” law.
Virginia Code 24.2-520 : A candidate who loses a primary shall be prohibited from having his name on a general election ballot.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) June 10, 2014
Update: You ready for this? Cantor’s own internal polling had him up 62/28.
Update: Tough call for Obama now. At first blush, there’s nothing stopping him at this point from issuing his long-awaited executive order on deportations tomorrow. No sense waiting any longer; the House isn’t going to pass anything on amnesty anymore. But the Cantor earthquake is so surprising that maybe even Democrats are leery now of having O make any sudden moves on the topic. If the House majority leader’s mild support for DREAM was enough to get him swamped at the polls by conservatives, what happens to Democrats in November if Obama doubles down on amnesty with an executive order?
Update: Game over. The upset of the century, so far.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor loses GOP primary to tea party challenger Dave Brat in Va.
— Julie Pace (@jpaceDC) June 11, 2014
Only one thing left to do now.
Update: So, who’s the new House majority leader? Kevin McCarthy? Caucus might feel obliged to push someone more conservative after this, a la Jeb Hensarling or Jim Jordan.
Update: Good point from Sean Davis:
Odds of Boehner trying to hang on as Speaker just skyrocketed.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) June 11, 2014
Establishment Republicans would have been comfortable with Cantor replacing Boehner. Now that there’s a chance that Boehner’s successor will be significantly more conservative than him, there’ll be heavy pressure on him to stick around until someone more moderate can creep up the ranks.
Possible compromise candidate: Paul Ryan?
Update: This upset may have ended more than just the near-term prospects for immigration reform. Hmmmmm:
So, tell me again how Jeb “Common Core/Immigration reform” Bush wins a single GOP primary.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) June 11, 2014
Update: See why I thought Cantor would win by 30?
Yes, you read that right. No sitting House Majority Leader has lost since 1899.
— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) June 11, 2014
Update: Now this is interesting. Did Brat get help from anti-Cantor Democrats?
Heads up: Precincts 210, 213, 219 in Henrico went for Obama with 81%, 79% & 85% and for Brat with 77, 83 & 86%.
— Патрик Руффини (@PatrickRuffini) June 11, 2014
Update: Minor problem with the “Operation Chaos” theory of Brat’s upset, says Leon Wolf:
I am just saying that if the VA7 Dems were organized enough to Operation Chaos Cantor, they'd be organized enough to run an actual candidate
— Leon Wolf (@LeonHWolf) June 11, 2014
If Democrats were capable of mounting a significant effort against Cantor in the GOP primary, they’d have a serious candidate waiting for Brat in the general. They don’t. The Dem nominee is token opposition.
Update: Meanwhile, as predicted, Lindsey Graham topped 50 percent tonight, winning his primary without a runoff. How did Grahamnesty pull that off while Cantor got swamped over immigration?
Update: More pushback to the “Operation Chaos” theory from Wasserman:
Also, don't fall for theory that Dems "crossed over" to vote for Brat. Brat's biggest margins were in heavy R Hanover & New Kent #VA07
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) June 11, 2014
Update: The White House has released its spin for the evening. You ready?
A spokesman for President Obama rushed to assure House Republicans that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) didn’t actually lose because of his gestures toward Democrats on immigration reform.
“Cantor’s problem wasn’t his position on immigration reform, it was his lack of a position,” Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer tweeted, citing the success of Senator Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.). “Graham wrote and passed a bill and is winning big.”
Tonight was … a win for amnesty?
Update: An eeyore like me can’t resist some pessimism amid a hugely exciting upset, so here’s a scenario for you. What if Boehner decides to retire anyway, and he and Cantor decide to go ahead and ram amnesty through this summer with token GOP support (30 votes or so) plus 190 Democrats? Cantor’s got nothing left to lose now.