Cantor wasn’t exactly caught sleeping. He spent $1 million in the weeks leading up to the primary on television ads calling Brat a “liberal college professor,” and sent out mailers boasting he’d blocked “amnesty” on Capitol Hill. Polling, what little there was of it, showed Cantor way ahead, though he was booed at a May meeting of Republican activists in his district, according to the Washington Post. Some observers cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions about immigration, and when the dust settles, it may prove that Cantor’s problem was less ideology and more a sense that he stood more for his own ambition than for any definable policies. He frequently reinvented himself with splashy policy speeches, and toured the country raising money and gathering chits for an eventual run for House Speaker.
“Was immigration an issue? Yes. Was it the deciding factor to the tune of 11%? Not no, hell no. It’s a fairy tale,” Virginia Democratic strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders said. “People talk. And they talk about Eric Cantor. ‘Where is he?’ His constituent services suck. He was never in the district. And when he was in the district and he went out, he had a [security] entourage with him. He was out gallivanting all over the country being a big deal and this is a lesson.”