SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

June 13, 2014

Benton: Lessons from Cantor loss

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in the GOP primary for his congressional seat Tuesday was certainly a stunner. But while supporters of his opponent are declaring Cantor’s defeat a big win for tea party principles, it might just as likely signal the beginning of the end for the movement.

David Brat, the economics professor who astounded the pundits by wresting the nomination from Cantor, now faces the task of holding onto the seat for the Republicans. The odds in terms of voter registration favor the GOP, but according to USA Today, a recent poll showed that two-thirds of district voters favored immigration reform which some have cited as the key to Cantor’s downfall.

From thinking they had no chance, Democrats are now looking at the prospect of a real race in the 7th Virginia District. Their nominee is sociologist Jack Trammell, who teaches at the same school (Randolph-Macon College) as Brat. (So dire were the Democrats’ prospects prior to Tuesday that no one ran for the party’s nomination. Trammell was chosen by a party committee.)

Some Massachusetts conservatives were quick to seize on the results in Virginia as reason to hew to right-wing principles with one even speculating that House Minority Leader Brad Jones of North Reading might be the next to lose his leadership role.

But don’t look for either Republican 6th District congressional candidate Richard Tisei or gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker to shed their moderate image anytime soon. The fact is leaning to the far right has proved disastrous for GOP presidential candidates in the last two elections, and is particularly perilous here in Massachusetts which boasts one of the most liberal congressional delegations in the nation.

On the other hand, a win by state Rep. Leah Cole, R-Peabody, in her bid for a second term this fall, would certainly warrant a review of what passes for conventional wisdom here and elsewhere.

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