House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) conceded Tuesday night that “obviously, we came up short” in fending off the Tea Party challenge from economics professor Dave Brat.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Brat had 55.6 percent to Cantor’s 44.4 percent.
“I know there’s a lot of long faces here tonight and it’s disappointing, sure,” Cantor said. “But I believe in this country, I believe there’s opportunity around the next corner for all of us.”
“So I look forward to continue to fight with all of you for the things that we believe in for the conservative cause because those solutions of ours are the answers to the problems that so many people are facing today.”
While Cantor’s loss unfolded and the majority leader gave his concession speech, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Va.) delivered a marathon speech against immigration reform on the House floor.
The remainder of the Hill was largely quiet, with no comments from other House leaders.
The possibility remained, though, that Cantor could attempt the same move that let Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to keep her seat.
In 2010, conservative Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, backed by Sarah Palin, knocked Murkowski out in the primary. After failing to find any other route to ballot access, Murkowski launched a write-in campaign and defeated Miller — becoming the first senator in more than five decades to win her seat via write-ins.
Murkowski’s long-shot campaign gave her a lead of more than 10,000 votes over Miller. She was declared the winner after Miller’s legal challenge was dismissed in late December of that year.
There was no Democratic primary candidate in Cantor’s district, though the open primary system meant that Democrats were able to cast ballots for Cantor or Brat.
Jack Trammell, a fellow professor of Brat’s at Randolph-Macon College, will run against his colleague on the Democratic ticket. National Democrats could sink more funds into the race if they see an opening in the district with Cantor gone.
Under Virginia’s “sore loser” law, Cantor’s name could not be printed on the general election ballot, but that wouldn’t stop him from a write-in campaign.
“He’s got to make that decision. Eric is a very smart guy… he’s got to decide what’s his future,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told CNN. “If he wants to take a gamble on a write-in campaign… he’s got to be careful not to look like a spoilsport.”
“I would be a little skeptical given the size and the margin” of Cantor’s defeat, Gingrich said, adding that he thinks every Tea Party group would “pile on” the majority leader in that campaign.
Life after an upset has played out well for some.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) was defeated in the 2012 primary by Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock, who would eventually lose to Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).
Lugar then created a nonprofit, The Lugar Center, to focus on the foreign policy and nonproliferation issues that marked his decades in office.
The ousted senator was then knighted by the British Empire and also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
Much more at The Grid.