Eric Cantor’s Loss and a Hundred Million Reasons Republicans Can’t Fight the Last War in 2014 June 11, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 15 10:13 am Yesterday, June 10, 2014, for the first time in American history, the sitting U.S. House Majority Leader lost a campaign for reelection. Why? Many conservative Republicans are claiming today
Eric Cantor’s Loss and a Hundred Million Reasons Republicans Can’t Fight the Last War in 2014
June 11, 2014 Vol. VII, No. 15 10:13 am
Yesterday, June 10, 2014, for the first time in American history, the sitting U.S. House Majority Leader lost a campaign for reelection. Why?
Many conservative Republicans are claiming today that U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, lost his race for reelection because of the influence of the Tea Party or because of the immigration issue. Wrong. Here is why he lost:
- Eric Cantor was not a good Congressman
- Cantor and his staff had the reputation of being arrogant and aloof
- Cantor spent too much time positioning himself to run for House Speaker and not enough time positioning himself back home to run for reelection
- Cantor let his power go to his head; he didn’t think he was vulnerable
- Cantor was so despised by his own voters that a $5.4 million to $207,000 fundraising advantage and a 34-point lead in the polls couldn’t save him
- Cantor lost by 56% to 44% because of hubris; ego run amok
- Cantor lost despite a staff of 23 to his opponent’s 2 staffers because he was dismissive
The national Tea Party groups like Americans for Prosperity, Tea Party Nation and Freedom Works cannot claim victory in the downfall of Eric Cantor because they did not spend one penny backing his opponent, David Brat, a Randolph-Macon College economics professor.
Brat spent only $122,000 on ads arguing that Cantor had become liberal because of his support for a pathway to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants and because of his votes for budget deals. You don’t win on the issues with ads when you are outspent 26-to-1.
The Tea Party didn’t win this election. Eric Cantor lost the election.
This was not an anti-establishment anti-incumbent vote. Only one incumbent member of the U.S. House has lost this year: Ralph Hall, the oldest member of Congress at 91-years old.
This was an anti-Eric Cantor vote. An anti-Eric Cantor’s staff vote.
Oh, and he also lost because thought that he could win in 2014 like he always had; that he didn’t need to do anything different in 2014. That he could fight the last war.
A Hundred Million Reasons Not to Fight the Last War
There is an old saying, “generals are always fighting the last war, especially if they won it.” That you can rely on the strategy and tactics that got you where you are.
The classic illustration of generals fighting the last war is the story of the building of the French Maginot Line in the 1930s. The Maginot Line was a series of fortifications and gun emplacements along the border considered a brilliant military advantage for the next Great War … a strategic military advantage based on WW I experiences.
In World War II, the French Maginot Line was of little worth. The Germans outflanked and overran them in about six months. Remember, the French had to be liberated by us!
Republican leaders who think they are going to parlay their power into a financial advantage over Democrats in 2014 may be in for a rude awakening. The tactics for raising money and winning political races in 2014 are as different as World War II was from World War I.
Today, one billionaire can turn all of the majority party’s money into chump change.
Case in point can be found in a Washington Post story on June 10, 2014 about how billionaire Tom Steyer, a California hedge-fund manager, “has vowed to spend up to $100 million in 2014 to help elect Democrats who are committed to fighting global warming.”
In the 2013 governor’s race in Virginia, Steyer spent $8 million independently on attack ads against Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli through his NextGen Climate Action Committee. USA PAC, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s super PAC, spent $1.6 million against Cuccinelli on the issue of gun control.
It took Cuccinelli all year to raise a $20 million war chest from thousands of contributors. It took two billionaires the time it takes to sign a check to raise half that amount.
Steyer’s $100 million commitment to helping Democrats keep the majority in the U.S. Senate is the one hundred million reasons North Carolina Republicans should not fight the last war in 2014.
Always Remember that You are Vulnerable
Last year, I wrote a series of reports titled, Ten Keys to Republican Political Longevity. The first key was, Always Remember that You are Vulnerable.
Eric Cantor lost because he and his staff didn’t think he was vulnerable. He was not defeated by the Tea Party; he defeated himself. The immigration issue is not why Eric Cantor lost, and he didn’t lose due to an anti-establishment anti-incumbent vote. Eric Cantor defeated himself.
This was personal, not political. This was an anti-Eric Cantor and his staff vote.
Those with power, like today’s North Carolina Republicans, can learn much from Eric Cantor’s loss. You can’t go off to the capital city and do as you please, putting your political power higher on the priority list than those you represent, and expect to get reelected.
And, you can’t fight the last war. That’s what Cantor and his staff did.
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John N. Davis, Editor