Tea Party flexes muscle; DC moving on from Cantor

Mark Twain famously responded to the printing of his obituary by saying, "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

This morning, the Tea Party has emphatically made this point with the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Already, the consulting class in Washington is attempting to minimize the magnitude of this loss, and it is likely that before the July Fourth recess there will be a new House majority leader.

Before D.C. moves on, every Republican officeholder needs to learn from this cautionary tale. Cantor would have easily won reelection if he had done one simple thing — read his campaign literature and governed like he meant it.

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In today's world, motivated voters can easily find out what their elected officials are doing and saying in D.C. independent of the mainstream media and big-bucks advertising campaigns, and legislative actions need to match up with campaign rhetoric.

It cannot be understated that Cantor's attempt to straddle both sides of the immigration issue ended his immediate political ambitions. The visuals of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens being ushered across the border by the Obama administration lured by an amnesty promise, fueled by Cantor himself, overcame paid Cantor in-district protestations of opposition to that very proposition.

Primary voters in Cantor's district simply did not believe him when he tried to convince them that he opposed amnesty. Seeing Obama's abject lawlessness on the issue play out with virtual refugee camps at military bases along our nation's southern border hardened voters' resolve not to reward lawbreakers, and they decided that Cantor could not be trusted on this issue, so they sent him packing.

Cantor sowed the seeds of his own defeat when over the past year and a half he chose to alienate much of the Virginia conservative base through leading a purge of their leadership from powerful local party positions. This classic misread of his own political situation may have been due to an internal staff purge of longtime Cantor staff members who had good relationships with the D.C. conservative networks.

And that is the perfect storm that ends with Cantor's historic loss.

Today, D.C. moves on. The electronic transmissions announcing Cantor's loss barely arrived when the speculation of successors began. Power truly abhors a vacuum in D.C., and Cantor's defeat created a giant sucking sound at the Capitol. The "king is dead, long live the king" is virtually being shouted from Jenkins Hill.

Here are the practicalities. At this late date in the 113th Congress, it makes zero sense to upend two leadership offices, so the ascension of either Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) or Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) is not going to happen. What does make sense is for House Republicans to elevate a more conservative member, who has already earned their trust through past leadership service, who has been in the room when decisions are made. The person who best fits this description is former House Republican Conference Chairman, and current Financial Services Committee Chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas. At least that is what my crystal ball shows.

Manning (@rmanning957) is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government. Contact him at rmanning@getliberty.org.

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