Eric Cantor concedes
Cantor concedes that he "came up short"

Young gun shot down

| Eric Cantor, currently House Majority Leader, second in command, lost the Republican primary in his district tonight to a Tea Party backed challenger in a stunning upset.

Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader
Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader

Cantor's opponent, David Brat, an economics professor, had $200,000 in his campaign fund, compared to Cantor's $5.4 million. It was a one-issue election: immigration. Brat hammered Cantor mercilessly about his support of "amnesty" (poor Cantor, he had dared to consider that the millions of undocumented immigrants should be offered a "path to citizenship" of any kind).

Nevertheless, speculation in the Republican camp centered around how big Cantor's margin would be as he cruised to victory. Cantor is, after all, the right-hand man to Speaker Boehner. Thus, when Brat beat Cantor by 12 percentage points (the current tally), it amounted to a political earthquake.

Young Guns book cover
$10.91 in paperback at Amazon.com

What makes this particularly ironic is that Cantor, along with Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, founded a recruiting organization in 2009 which they called Young Guns, devoted to finding and electing young conservatives to the House. These "rising stars" fancied themselves the future of the Republican party who would wrest control from the stodgy (read "reasonable") old guard. In 2010, two-thirds of their young guns were actually elected to House seats (62 out of 92), and in 2012 the Young Gun program claimed credit for helping to elect 35 new members. Cantor considered himself a lock for the speakership when John Boehner either retired or was ousted as Speaker.

But, a funny thing has happened on the way to Cantor's coronation. He found himself challenged from the right and unable to convince the party base that, oh my goodness no, he is not at all supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.

To mix metaphors a bit, the Republican party allowed the Tea Party camel to get its nose under the tent, and the entire herd has now taken over. The truth of the adage, Be careful what you wish for, is now self-evident.

One has to wonder about the aftershocks that will follow. There will surely be many, and many will likely be severe.

Last updated on Apr 29, 2016

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