Eric Cantor Got “Joe Millered” by Tea Party
Anyone in Alaska watching Tuesday’s primary shocker in Virginia unfold couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the Senate race in 2010. That year, Tea Party candidate Joe Miller set the Republican establishment back on its heels with a victory shocker over incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. Democrats scrambled while institutional Republicans, mouths agape, tried to comprehend what had just happened.
On Tuesday in Virginia, Dave Brat, an underfunded Tea Party candidate cleaned the clock of the 7-term Republican incumbent House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by double digits. Brat had been predicted to lose by a wide margin.
By many accounts Cantor had run a lackluster campaign featuring eminently forgettable ads, and fueled by hubris and $2 million dollars of establishment, and special interest cash. And Brat, the even-more-conservative ideologue did the only thing that counts – he turned out the votes on primary day. What does this teach us? Always assume that passion will turn out more voters than comfort or money. And don’t assume that people answering pollsters’ questions will tell the truth.
Cantor, thanks to Virginia’s “sore loser” law, will not be permitted to put his name on the ballot as an independent candidate. He could, however, decide to launch a write-in campaign like Murkowski did in 2010. She, with the help of funding by Native corporations and others managed to pull it off and defeated both Miller, and Democrat Scott McAdams in a history-making campaign, albeit plagued with voting irregularities, and bitterness from both sides. Democrats panicked and jumped ship to vote for Murkowski rather than see Miller elected, and moderate Republicans turned out in full force. A spendy ad campaign gave spelling lessons “M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I… and don’t forget to fill in the oval!” Rubber wrist bands with Murkowski’s name and a filled in oval were handed out at events and worn into the voting booth.
But could Cantor pull off a similar victory? Unlikely, by historical standards. And so we’re left to watch for polling data (which didn’t prove anything in the primary), and to see whether in a two-man race, voters will go left or right.
Meanwhile on the Last Frontier, Miller is a candidate for Senate again in 2014 – this time running in an August primary against two establishment candidates – the lackluster Mead Treadwell and new Alaska transplant from the beltway Dan Sullivan. Polling shows Miller behind, but in a state which is already notorious for misleading poll results, that may not mean much. Polls also show that Miller would be the easiest of the three to beat for incumbent Democrat Mark Begich this November.
Miller’s campaign was quick to give its own analysis of the events in Virginia and compare them to his own races. The following statement was released Tuesday night, even before the talk shows had fallen silent. Miller, whose campaign manager in 2010 stated in an email obtained by The Mudflats, “We’re not the Tea Party candidate, so avoid that language…” has had a change of heart and now embraces the association.
Here is the statement in full:
Miller on Tea Party Victory in Virginia: ‘We the People’ Put Establishment in Its Place
Fairbanks, Alaska. June 10, 2014 – U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller congratulated Dave Brat on his victory tonight over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th District Republican Primary.
“I want to congratulate Dave Brat on his great victory in Virginia tonight. Those in the Republican Establishment have done all they can this election cycle to announce the demise of the tea party movement with bold predictions of ‘crushing them everywhere.’ Well, maybe they should have checked with the grassroots before making such proclamations,” said Miller. “From Jolly in Florida to Stasse in Nebraska to McDaniels in Mississippi to Brat in Virginia, the tea party is proving that the people and not the party bosses or would-be king-makers in DC have the final say.”
Brat overcame Cantor’s significant monetary advantage and media presence to defeat the GOP Party leader. At the end of the last reporting period in March, Brat had $40 thousand on hand to Cantor’s over $2 million. Cantor raised over $5 million for his re-election bid to Brat’s $200,000 in contributions. Cantor’s campaign released a poll last Friday conducted by John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates, reported on by the Washington Post, showing Cantor with a 34-point lead over his tea party challenger (62 to 28 percent). Brat defeated Cantor by approximately 55 to 46 percent.
In 2010, Miller defeated Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Republican primary despite polling by Alaskan firm Dittman Research showing him trailing by 37 points weeks before the election. Murkowski, like Cantor, enjoyed a substantial monetary advantage of $2 million on hand at the end of June to Miller’s $100,000.
Dittman Research recently released a poll (without publishing the supporting data) showing Miller running over twenty points down against his primary opponents. The owner of the research firm is a max contributor to establishment candidate Mead Treadwell. Miller recently defeated Treadwell in a debate in his rival’s hometown of Anchorage, winning the straw poll following the debate. Less than a week before Miller won the Alaska Republican Assembly’s straw poll taking 76 percent of the vote, to Treadwell’s 18 percent, and Dan Sullivan’s 6 percent. Both indicate Miller has strong grassroots support as he did in 2010.
Amnesty and government spending were two of the decisive issues in Virginia’s 7th District primary race. Miller faces two Establishment candidates, Treadwell, who openly advocates for amnesty and Dan Sullivan who is heavily backed by those advocating for it, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and billionaire moderate Republican Paul Singer. Miller was the only candidate to come out publicly against the Murray-Ryan budget deal, when it was being debated last fall.
“The Party elite always play the same game: use unreliable polling and the media to try to convince voters there is no way to defeat their hand-picked candidates. The people are not buying it,” said Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto. “They know Washington is the problem and sending more there who want to play the Establishment game will not restore freedom or revive our economy. Based on what we’ve be seeing here in Alaska, the grassroots have another surprise in store for the Establishment in August.”
Joe Miller is a husband, father, combat veteran, and advocate of Constitutional liberty who believes in individual rights, private property, free markets and the sanctity of human life.