Though not a glowing endorsement, outgoing Congressman Eric Cantor vowed to vote for Dave Brat in the November election, an important step in unifying Republican Party elements in the wake of Cantor’s bruising primary defeat last week.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Cantor said, “I want a Republican to hold this seat. Of course. Of course. This is about making sure that we have a strong Republican majority in the House.”
For Virginia conservatives, this is strikingly different than what happened during the 2013 gubernatorial race when moderate elements led by former Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling withheld support from conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Bolling’s criticism of Cuccinelli led former Cantor aide Boyd Marcus to endorse crony capitalist Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who won the gubernatorial election by a thinner-than-expected margin.
The 2013 race, like the Brat vs. Cantor primary, was yet another battle between pro-market, liberty-oriented Republicans and Big Business, cronyist Republicans.
All too often, conservatives are expected to rally behind the Republican nominee when a moderate wins (a la, Romney 2012), but moderate Republicans are labeled “statesmen” when they defect and endorse Big Business Democrats or remain silent.
This author believes a “thank you” is in order to Congressman Cantor. Certainly, his comments aren’t the same as a full-throated endorsement and promise to hit the campaign trail with Brat, but it’s a lot better than what former Cantor allies did when the conservative candidate emerged as the Republican nominee in Virginia.
According to the Cook Political Report, Virginia’s 7th District is ranked R+10, meaning it’s pretty strongly Republican-leaning. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the district with 57% of the vote.
Ironically enough, the Virginia congressional delegation — led by Eric Cantor and his political allies — re-drew district lines in 2011 to protect incumbents like Cantor:
“It’s an incumbent plan, not a Republican plan,” said former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, who retired as Connolly’s predecessor in 2008. “Republicans have locked in their eight seats. Democrats get Connolly’s seat.”
The incumbent-protection scheme clearly serves Republican interests, though at the cost of weakening the party’s hand in defeating Connolly in Democratic-leaning Northern Virginia, where population growth has made it more difficult for the GOP to defeat him in any case.
Thank you, Congressman Cantor, for your vow of support for Brat.