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PHILLIPS: Calling the shot

- - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I live in Virginia, but in my home state of Tennessee, there is an old saying attributed to legendary politician John Jay Hooker: “He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted.”

Last night, the political world was shocked when Dave Brat, an unknown challenger, a conservative economics professor, defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary for Virginia's 7th Congressional District.

The defeat of a House majority leader is unprecedented.

But it should not be a surprise to the readers of The Washington Times.

For months now, I have been talking about Dave Brat in the pages of The Washington Times, as well as Tea Party Nation and other platforms.

Cantor’s loss was no surprise to those of us who are in his district.

Why did Cantor lose?

Cantor lost because he lied. His ads called Dave Brat a liberal professor when everyone in the district, even Cantor supporters, knew that wasn’t true. He sent out mailers to the district claiming he was fighting Obama on immigration amnesty, at the same time he was giving interviews saying he could work with Obama on parts of amnesty. He lied again.

Every time Cantor moved, all he did was reinforce the image of a power-hungry politician who would do anything to be re-elected.

Outside groups came in and spent money on Cantor’s race. That hurt him more than it helped him.

Cantor was totally out of touch with his district. He refused to debate Dave Brat and refused to hold town hall meetings. Cantor was arrogant and dismissive of the voters in his district, many of whom viewed him as more interested in becoming speaker of the House than in representing the district.

Cantor tried to play power politics in the district and failed badly. He created resentment by having his allies engage in a tactic called slating. In Virgina, traditionally local Republican groups are allocated delegates for district and state conventions. Those allocations are so large that any Republican activist who wants to be a delegate can be. Cantor and his allies tried to run a slate of small loyalists through so that the majority of conservative activists were excluded from the convention. In some counties he was able to do that. In others he was not.

The real warning sign for Cantor should have been at the 7th Congressional District's Republican convention on May 10. The convention was held blocks from Cantor’s home. This was his power base.

The business of the convention was to elect a district chairman, which is a fairly powerful position in Republican politics in Virginia. Cantor’s hand-picked candidate was running for re-election in what was supposed to be a rigged convention. Cantor’s man lost the election, and Cantor himself was booed off the stage.

Eric Cantor has lost. But there are lessons for the GOP here. The base does not want amnesty. But perhaps an even more important lesson is that Republicans need to quit playing the political games in Washington and do what they promised the voters they are going to do.

Dave Brat has nominal Democratic opposition in the general election. Barring anything unforeseen, he will be the next congressman from the 7th District.

For months, I have talked about Dave Brat here at The Washington Times.

Now that Brat has won, everyone is asking, “Who is the next Dave Brat?”

Find out here tomorrow!