Cantor’s Pollster Blames Democratic Meddling For Loss

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The pollster for Eric Cantor’s campaign whose pre-primary numbers were woefully off the mark hinted in an email that the House majority leader’s upset Tuesday may have been driven by Democrats crossing over party lines.

Veteran Republican pollster John McLaughlin explained in the email to National Journal why the campaign’s internal numbers showed Cantor trouncing tea party challenger Dave Brat within weeks of the stunning primary result.

McLaughlin cited a dramatic spike in primary turnout from the 2012 cycle, as well as bitter criticism of Cantor on immigration, which inspired right-wing radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin to go all in for Brat.

But McLaughlin also attributed the loss to a plan hatched by former Congressman Ben Jones (D-GA), who encouraged Democrats to vote for Brat in the open primary.

Jones, known for his role as Cooter Davenport on The Dukes of Hazzard, ran unsuccessfully against Cantor in 2002.

From the National Journal:

“Over the weekend Democrats like Ben Jones and liberal media were driving their Democratic voters on the internet into the open primary,” McLaughlin wrote. “Eric got hit from right and left. In our polls two weeks out Eric was stronger with Republicans at 70% of the vote, but running under 50% among non Republicans.”

“Untold story,” McLaughlin continued, “is who were the new primary voters? They were probably not Republicans.”

Jones’ plan harkens back to Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos,” a Republican effort to influence the 2008 Democratic primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

For what it’s worth, Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, doubts that Cantor was derailed by Democratic meddling.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at tom@talkingpointsmemo.com.
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