Even after the little-known, underfunded David Brat took down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Tuesday night’s Republican primary, the 49-year-old college economics professor still couldn’t quite comprehend it.
“Unbelievable. It’s a miracle,” he told supporters Tuesday night in Richmond.
As the political world was reeling from the upset win, Mr. Brat on Wednesday was faced with the fresh reality of being the GOP’s standard-bearer in the race to represent Virginia’s 7th District in Congress.
The Randolph-Macon College professor said differences between himself and Mr. Cantor on immigration helped push him over the top, but that he also ran on fiscal discipline, free markets, adherence to the Constitution and returning power from the federal government back to the states.
In a morning interview on MSNBC, Mr. Brat said he would be happy to talk more about policy some other time, but that his head was still reeling from the surprise upset over the current House majority leader, who was ahead by more than 30 points in one internal poll ahead of the election.
“I just wanted to talk about the victory at hand,” Mr. Brat. “I wanted to thank everyone who worked on my campaign.”
That interview drew a mocking response from Democrats, with the Democratic National Committee saying the nominee sounded “a little unclear about what he stands for.”
“Brat won this thing — you’ve got to give him credit,” said Mr. Davis. “You beat the king.”
Mr. Brat managed to capitalize on a deep opposition among the GOP grass roots to immigration reform, consistently saying Mr. Cantor’s qualified support for granting legal status to some young illegal immigrants was a betrayal of conservative principles.
But he also said the immigration theme is part of a broader narrative that he tried to tell throughout the campaign — that Mr. Cantor had become more beholden to corporate and national interests than to his constituents.
With Mr. Cantor declining to pursue a possible write-in campaign, Mr. Brat is now set to square off in the fall general election against fellow Randolph-Macon College professor Jack Trammell, who Democrats only nominated Sunday night.
Mr. Trammell, in his own statement election night, said Mr. Cantor’s loss provided an opening for his long-shot bid.