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The Brat Pack

Eric Cantor’s disaffected constituents throw him out.

Jun 23, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 39 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Unlike some antiamnesty activists, Brat didn’t go nativist in his criticisms. His vastly underfunded campaign (Cantor may have outspent him by as much as 40 to 1) sent out a simple mailer with a photo featuring a smiling Cantor standing with Silicon Valley billionaire and immigration reform advocate Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters. “There are 20 million Americans who can’t find a full-time job. But Eric Cantor wants to give corporations another 20 million foreign workers to hire instead,” reads the text.

“Eric Cantor doesn’t represent you,” Brat wrote in an op-ed for the Richmond Times-Dispatch published just days before the election. “He represents large corporations seeking a never-ending supply of cheap foreign labor. He doesn’t care about how this will affect your livelihood, your schools, your tax bills or your kids’ chances of finding a job.”

It was a message of economic populism, but more broadly it was an anti-Washington message. And there are few House members more at home in D.C. than Eric Cantor. A seven-term congressman, he rose rapidly through the ranks of GOP leadership, gaining a conservative voting record as well as a reputation as a Capitol Hill operator. Cantor was widely seen as a top pick to succeed John Boehner when the House speaker retires. He was also a dogged fundraiser for his fellow Republicans. One embarrassing detail reported after the election: Cantor had spent more of his campaign cash at D.C.-area steakhouses for fundraising events than Brat had spent on his entire primary campaign.

As majority leader, Cantor likely expected Republican voters to appreciate their congressman’s proximity to the center of political power in this country. But that’s not what Nancy Russell heard from her fellow Virginia Republicans. “I almost feel like they’d rather not have their representative in the leadership,” she says. In a cautionary tale for any ambitious member of Congress, Cantor’s success in Washington was, back home, his ultimate undoing.

Michael Warren is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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