Eric Cantor Loss: Not Due to Low Turnout (or Immigration)

Hearing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary election last night was the biggest political surprise I have ever witnessed. Amidst the great flurry of calls and texts exchanged between my immediate friends and family that Cantor will not longer be part of government, I kept noticing high levels of inaccuracy in the news reporting on the election.

The most egregious of the consistently stated falsehoods: this was a low turnout election which benefits the most energized members of the electorate.

This has been repeated my news sources, from Dana Bash on CNN saying only 12% of the district members voted, when that is a completely dumb benchmark to use (especially since 1/3 of that figure is children who cannot vote), to FOX “news” Carl Cameron saying the turnout was sooooo low because the weather kept people in doors. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes (who is supposed to be a little smarter than a simple reporter) asked Virigina’s Larry Sabato if the low turnout is why Cantor lost, to which Sabato corrected him that turnout was actually high, which seemed to be of no consequence. Seeing this repeatedly, from NBC news, the New York Times, Politico, and many more is extremely discouraging.

It is not difficult to take one minute to look up previous primary results, which finally the Washington Post did in their piece published after midnight. In the piece, they show the last primary Cantor was involved in had 47,000 votes cast. Further, if one just looks the 7th district’s 65,000+ votes cast to the results in the comparably conservative 1st district, which had only 17.4k votes cast. Or another very crude, but extremely fast measure, would be to take the total number of Republican votes cast in the 2010 midterm election, which is likely to be around the number cast this fall, and simply divide the sum of this primary by the total Cantor received then: 65,022/138,093=0.471. In contrast, the 1st district figure is 17444/135432=0.12. So in 30 seconds, it is easy to figure out that nearly half of the GOP supportive voters (and likely much higher when just considering registered Republicans) came out in the bad weather to vote in the Cantor vs. idealistic-dude-who-will-never-deliver-anything-he-says candidate. That is remarkably high.

So either turnout among the all Republicans was high, or Democrats did vote for other-dude strategically in an effort to finally get rid of Cantor. The media has undervalued the degree to which this may explain the increased turnout.

Evidence for Democrats voting for anti-Cantor?

This is a map of the R v D share of the vote in the 2010 election. The circled area is where Brat votes were most concentrated in this part of the district (based on the map created by the Virginia Public Access Project). Evidence for strategic Democrats voting anti-Cantor?

In the end, both candidates received a heightened amount of votes.

The full story is both candidates mobilized a substantial amount of GOP voters. Yes, some anti-Cantor voters believe the immigration line propounded by the idealistic dude, but plenty of pro-Cantor voters also disfavor immigration reform. What mattered is twofold: 1) the some-dude actually campaigned by meeting people and explaining why a change in leadership is needed (primarily on the basis that) 2) Cantor does not effectively show face and represent his constituents. The second condition is necessary, but not sufficient to vote Cantor out of office. The district would likely have gotten rid of him sooner if he had to thwart off primary challengers ever two years, as someone, even a snake-oil salesman like this guy, would ultimately strike a nerve.

This election was about good old district relations. No matter how close your district is to Washington D.C., you still have to go home, smile, shake hands, kiss babies, talk about the local sports team, visit the local diner to ask what people think you should do on policy x (even if you ignore it completely), and genuinely act like you are not entitled, but would be grateful for someone’s vote. On the bright side for Cantor, at least he can transition smoothly into a lobbying position where he can authentically be himself: a tool for money wielding conservatives of any stripe (as long as they pay).

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Posted on June 11, 2014, in 2014 Election, Elections, Levity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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