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Greg BluesteinDaniel Malloy
Jim Galloway

The Georgia threads in Eric Cantor’s defeat

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The unexpected shellacking of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., by tea party forces has plenty of Georgia tendrils. We’ll begin with this from the New York Times:

Mr. Cantor’s defeat will embolden conservatives like Representative Tom Price of Georgia, who has openly complained that the leadership positions are occupied by swing-state Republicans.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogCandidates to move up could include Mr. Price, Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, or brash newcomers like Representative Tom Graves of Georgia, Mr. Wasserman said. The message is that the House must be run by even more conservative leaders.

From that same NYT article:

David Wasserman, a House political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said another, more local factor has to be acknowledged: Mr. Cantor, who dreamed of becoming the first Jewish speaker of the House, was culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented and more conservative.

“Part of this plays into his religion,” Mr. Wasserman said. “You can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”

Over at the Washington Post, the Wonkblog notes that Cantor’s defeat has huge implications for proponents of big business:

Cantor lost to a challenger who specifically attacked him for his close ties to business — going so far as to single out the BRT and the Chamber.

“The central theme of [David] Brat’s campaign is that Cantor is beholden to business — specifically the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable,” wrote Politico in April.

“If you’re in big business, Eric’s been very good to you, and he gets a lot of donations because of that, right?” Brat said at a local meeting of Republicans in Virginia, according to Politico. “Very powerful. Very good at fundraising because he favors big business. But when you’re favoring artificially big business, someone’s paying the tab for that. Someone’s paying the price for that, and guess who that is? You.”

Don’t be surprised if, in Georgia, Republican David Perdue quickly begins attacking U.S. Senate run off rival Jack Kingston as a U.S. Chamber of Commerce candidate.

In the GOP runoff race to replace Jack Kingston in Congress, Bob Johnson is already taking heed of the Cantor loss. The Savannah surgeon, running as a tea party foil to state Sen. Buddy Carter in the coastal First District, issued a statement saying the result “serves as a warning to liberal Republicans like Carter.”

On Tuesday, an internal Kingston campaign poll surfaced, showing the Savannah congressman winning 49 to 35 percent in a head-to-head match-up against former Dollar General CEO David Perdue. We have three reasons to take the survey with more than a grain of salt.

First of all, it’s an internal poll. Secondly, it was taken May 27-29, well before an AJC article pointing out that a felon whom U.S. authorities are seeking to deport has acted as Kingston’s biggest campaign bundler.

Then there’s the fact that the internal Kingston survey was conducted by John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates – the same pollster used by Gov. Nathan Deal, Attorney General Sam Olens and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

McLaughlin was also Cantor’s pollster. And last week, he gave Cantor a 34-point lead.

Conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham is taking much of the credit for Cantor’s defeat. But Tom Crawford of the Georgia Report points to another Georgia thread this morning:

Ben “Cooter” Jones, a former Democratic congressman from Georgia who now lives in Virginia, called on Democrats in that area to cross over in the primary election and vote for Brat to help beat Cantor.

“By voting for David Brat in the Seventh District Republican primary, we Democrats, independents, and Libertarians can make a big difference in American politics,” Jones said in a letter to Virginia Democrats. “It is your right to cast that vote.”

“A vote for David Brat will be heard not just throughout Washington, D.C. but around the world,” predicted Jones, who was defeated by Cantor in a 2002 congressional race.

In an email to the National Journal, pollster John McLaughlin said the “Cooter” factor likely contributed to higher-than-expected turnout. From the report:

“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.”

Many commentators have already declared immigration reform dead in the House this year as a result of Cantor’s loss. Another probably-already-dead-but-now-certainly-so policy — a Voting Rights Act rewrite.

Cantor was the highest profile GOP backer of the plan, pushed by Atlanta Democrat John Lewis among others, to put Georgia and three other states back under federal pre-clearance for their new voting laws. It has not received a committee hearing since being introduced in January.

***

Eric Cantor’s defeat drew attention away from a harsh counterattack made Tuesday by businessman David Perdue, in a tough GOP runoff for U.S. Senate against Jack Kingston. 80,000 in cash bundled by a felon that authorities are attempting to deport.

But Perdue also pointed to a 2011 article from ProPublica, the investigative journalism website, which documented Kingston’s support for a prominent Savannah car dealer and his quest for a presidential pardon. Kingston accepted $10,100 from the car dealer’s family before the pardon, and $13,050 afterwards.

***

Gov. Nathan Deal, the Republican incumbent, clearly has a richer godfather than Democratic challenger Jason Carter, according to the Center for Public Integrity:

Through March, the Republican Governors Association has spent five times more around the country than it did at the same point four years ago while the Democratic Governors Association’s overall spending is double what it was in 2010, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service….

Already the RGA has spent more than $15 million overall on its operations. By comparison, the group had spent just over $3 million through March in 2010, part of more than $110 million spent during the cycle that helped the party pick up five governorships previously held by Democrats.

***

The Georgia U.S. Senate race is drawing interest all the way across the pond. The London-based Guardian has a deep dive on Georgia’s demographic changes.

The whole piece is worth a read but among the interesting tidbits: Michelle Nunn would not say whether George H.W. Bush or Barack Obama has been a better president, and her campaign estimates there are 632,000 “likely Nunn supporters” who voted in the 2012 presidential race after staying home in 2010.

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