Plenty of uninformed-to-inane coverage is assumed when a big event occurs that most reporters have little background on, and it is always assumed from the practitioners of “conservative anthropology” — see the expected lunacy from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and the Huffington Post’s “Crusaders!” angle. However, most of the Fox News coverage last night on Dave Brat’s victory demonstrated a decent grasp on the race, though no one has really nailed the story yet.
The best angle I’ve seen so far came a short while ago from local Virginia blog The Bull Elephant; blogger and locally prominent conservative Jamie Radtke offered the “Top Ten Reasons Eric Cantor Lost.” She is perfectly correct in that Brat’s victory was not simply a matter of amnesty or anger at the “GOP establishment,” but a perfect storm of several factors, including timing, and the most important factor being local anger at the behavior of Cantor’s campaign team.
Think of the Villanova-Georgetown championship in 1985, or even the Red Sox taking out my Yanks in 2004: everything had to go perfectly. The majority leader does not get resoundingly defeated for the first time in American history any other way.
Bret Baier, Sean Hannity, et al focused heavily on immigration last night, including the very recent and horrifying images of hopeful DREAMers being abandoned in Arizona. These images very likely proved to seal the deal for Brat, as he was able to connect Cantor’s comments last week of it being time to finish negotiating with Obama on an amnesty deal. Brat’s response received national — read “MSM” — coverage, and Cantor’s comments, reported at Breitbart, lived in the upper right corner of Drudge for several hours over this past weekend. (Interestingly, the link connecting Cantor’s quote to the Arizona shelter fiasco disappeared at some point, though the other links stayed up.)
The Daily Caller commissioned a Vox Populi poll that showed Cantor leading 52%-40% with 9% undecided. They released the poll on June 6, and the results dated back to June 2. This was the one and only poll released to the public regarding this race. Believing that the Arizona images affected the race in Brat’s favor following this poll is a very small leap of faith, especially considering the poll itself is assumed to have accomplished two goals for Brat, according to Brat insiders:
1. The Daily Caller poll results came a week after Ray Allen, Cantor’s blustery campaign chief, had stated that his internal polling showed Cantor up by about 34 points. Whether or not Allen was telling the truth — I believe he was not, as his concurrent choice to spend bazillions on direct mailings smearing Brat as a “liberal college professor” are not the actions of a man thinking he is comfortably ahead — the Daily Caller poll allowed Team Brat to tell supporters that, according to Allen’s own admission, Brat had just made up 22 points in one week.
Don’t underestimate the message that sent to Brat’s grassroots. A 22-point swing is an Anthony Weiner-level cratering of one’s support.
2. Undecideds break 80% for the challenger. The Daily Caller poll reasonably placed Brat in a 52%-48% race, with a stated 4% margin of error.
Trust me: the Daily Caller poll was huge in Brat’s office. At that point Friday evening, all informed observers knew the worst possible outcome for Brat was losing by five or fewer. If you were completely caught off-guard, you likely hadn’t seen that Daily Caller poll.
About that potential 22-point cratering: I believe it was a much smaller drop in support, though I cannot know for sure, yet I definitely know that the cause of that horrible stretch for Cantor was only mentioned tangentially so far in the major wrap-ups of the elections.
Laura Ingraham — who headlined a pro-Brat event on June 2 — mentioned last night that one of those Ray Allen mailings made the wildly dishonest claim that Cantor was “stopping the Obama/Reid plan to give amnesty to illegal aliens.” As evidence, she referred to the fact that just last year Cantor took a three-day speaking tour with the chief amnesty supporter in Congress, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and that the intent of tour was discussing their shared ideas for “comprehensive immigration reform.”
But the key event of the election, which occurred during the Cantor crash week, was this: on May 28, Rep. Luis Gutierrez came all the way to Richmond to appear at the Virginia Capitol building for the purpose of declaring Eric Cantor to be “the one man standing in the way of immigration reform.”
Of course, the Allen mailers proclaiming the exact same message had gone out just a day or two before.
Adding one plus one together, not a soul present at the Gutierrez event was not suspicious that the Cantor team had coordinated with Gutierrez to produce pure theater. A Brat loss served Gutierrez’s interests, as Brat was clearly less of a partner on amnesty than Cantor, and Cantor knew that his amnesty history was killing him within his district.
So Brat showed up an hour ahead of the Gutierrez event — knowing the cameras would already be there — and got out the message that Cantor’s mailers were dishonest, and that Cantor was in fact the friend of amnesty in this race.
This appearance by Brat, and the amateur-hour kabuki orchestrated by Cantor and Gutierrez, was the day the MSM first paid attention to Brat. This was the turning point. Brat loses if Gutierrez does not show, or if Brat does not show up to preempt him.
The AP, Politico, and others reported that evening that “Cantor Gets Hit on Amnesty From Both Sides”.
Allen had hoped the headlines would read “Cantor targeted as chief opponent of immigration reform.” The average low-information voter in the 7th District now had in one hand a bombastic mailer about Eric Cantor’s bonafides; in the other, a laptop claiming that Cantor’s opponent was clearly, undoubtedly campaigning to the right of Cantor on amnesty.
The MSM attention put the lie to Cantor’s mailers. Allen had taken what he thought was a calculated risk by lying so brazenly to Cantor’s constituents, assuming Brat would not have the money to combat the message. But Allen overstepped by coordinating a press event with Gutierrez.
The cameras were already there, Brat just had to show up to get his first national attention, for free. Without spending a penny, Brat convinced the 7th District that Cantor was a liar. Of course, it was true. And this event occurred between the Allen “34-points” boast, and the Daily Caller poll.
I’ll write more on this topic later today — it was a fascinating race, and I can’t wait to get you all the details.