John McLaughlin, Cantor’s pollster and advisor, is out with an explanation of not only why his candidate lost but why his guy lost but why he told his guy at the end of May that he had a 34 point lead. His answer: Democratic (cross-over voting) sabotage!
Don’t buy it. I know there are lots of Dems who’d like to imagine that their Virginia brethren pulled off the ultimate rat-f#$k on Eric Cantor last night. First, that sort of cross-over meddling almost never pans out. Second, and more importantly, as the tsunami was cresting last night, I was watching the folks on Twitter who really know how to analyze county by county numbers. And they weren’t buying it. The spread looked consistent with Cantor simply getting crushed in the most conservative parts of the district.
As we were just discussing in an editorial conversation, you don’t go from being an entrenched incumbent to losing a primary by a big margin because of tactical errors. That said, it’s one thing to get taken down by a tsunami – quite another not even to see it coming.
Brat’s Tea Party supporters are rightly pointing out that establishment types can’t say that Cantor didn’t know he had a race on his hands and didn’t try. He spent a massive amount of money on this contest. In a flyer, he even enlisted TPM to burnish his credentials as an anti-immigration bad-ass.
Still, that doesn’t mean he spent it wisely or well. And it seems very hard to believe he had any idea something like this was in the cards.
I suspect a lot of attention will focus on McLaughlin himself who has of late developed a pointed reputation for providing his clients with comically misleading and over-optimistic internal campaign poll data. Whether or not that’s fair, “the Dems” did it explanation is not going to hold water.