It’s a good thing Virginia has a “sore loser” law because we have some very sore losers on our hands.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s pollster had some explaining to do after Cantor lost his primary battle to his Tea Party challenger David Brat by ten points when the pollster had predicted Cantor showed Cantor was ahead by 62 percent to 28 percent with 11 percent of voters undecided, and it went like this:
The Democrats did it, Mommy!
And, in case God is keeping score of how McLaughlin and Cantor were wronged in this huge error, it was the “liberal media”.
Also, the “Cooter factor”. Yes, that’s a thing now.
In an email to Shane Goldmacher of the National Journal, McLaughlin blamed Democrats for his bad polls and Cantor’s loss, saying that Representative Ben Jones — the actor who played Cooter in the “Dukes of Hazard” — wrote a letter urging Democrats to vote in the primary.
More on the “Cooter factor”:
Then McLaughlin cited the “Cooter” factor – the fact that former Rep. Ben Jones, a Georgia Democrat who played Cooter in The Dukes of Hazzard, had written an open letter urging Democrats to vote for Brat to help beat Cantor.
“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.”
John McLaughlin had assured Cantor that he was up by 34 points with his “internal polls”. I put that in quotes because it’s becoming somewhat of an Achilles’ heel for Republicans —-their “unskewed” polls, their ability to bury themselves in denial ala Karl Rove’s shock regarding Ohio on election night. This is the broader point of Cantor’s seismic loss.
McLaughlin also blamed high turnout, but the National Journal was not impressed, noting that his estimate of who was a likely Republican voter was “way, way, off the mark”. Food for thought.
Did Democrats turnout in droves and destroy Cantor? The Virginia Democratic Party is no doubt pleased that Republicans think there are so many of them in a district in which Cantor won by a large percentage in 2012. This is a red, red district so much so that upon Cantor’s announcement that he won’t be mounting a write-in campaign, Democrats signaled that they won’t be all in on the race.
Also, according to Michael McDonald who specializes in American elections, the highest Democratic-leaning precincts had lowest total votes, so the loss didn’t happen there:
Weak evidence Ds swung VA-7. Highest D precs have lowest total votes (not all localities in VA-7, but highest D incl) pic.twitter.com/iqxWgwFKkj
— Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) June 11, 2014
So no, Democrats are not responsible for Cantor’s loss. While there may have been some crossover, the evidence suggests it was low support for Cantor that did him in. McDonald pointed out the irony that the Republicans’ redistricting was meant to protect Cantor. He finished McLaughlin off with a tweet jingle, “If you need a poll That’ll make you look good Who you gonna call? McLaughlin!”
McLaughlin has a record of puffing up Republican egos and then falling flat on his poll, which begs the question — why would any candidate in their right mind use him unless they are so narcissistically fragile that they would rather have smoke blown up their precious bum than face reality? The problem with this is that reality, like the grim reaper, always comes calling eventually.
Republican pundits circled the wagons before anyone even knew why this stunning upset happened, claiming that it meant nothing. But as I wrote on Twitter in real time, Eric Cantor was the Number 2 in Republican House leadership. He was the “future of the Republican Party”. One of its “Young Guns”. His resounding defeat and rejection was a huge upset for the Republican Party. There is no denying that.
The point is not really the impact of Cantor’s loss on the 2014 elections as it seems likely that the seat will stay Republican, but a continuation of the reason the Republican Party is no longer a viable national party — and that is denial.
Republicans have been in denial about their party’s mistakes. This is a tough place for a party to be. But instead of facing up to it and pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps with some harsh accountability and reassessment, they’ve ignored post-mortems and doubled down on the hate they need in order to get out the vote. Catering to hate while fearfully and crazily redistricting (both parties redistrict when they can but to rely on it is foolish) instead of rebranding has brought them here.
The only reason a Republican hires McLaughlin is because they want to fool themselves into feeling good. The aura of hazy egomania combined with heady delusions of grandeur is not helping the GOP; in fact, it will be its demise. Its death is just taking a painfully slow time, assisted in its denial by a corporate media who love to pretend Republicans are the grown ups.
Image: The AP
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.