Campaign

Dave Brat’s seat moved to ‘toss-up’ 4 years after upset victory over Eric Cantor

Greg Nash

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved Rep. Dave Brat’s reelection race to a “toss-up,” meaning the Virginia Republican is in danger of losing his seat just four years after a stunning defeat of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary.

Cook shifted the race between Brat and former CIA operative Abigail Spanberger from its “lean Republican” rating on Friday. David Wasserman, a Cook analyst, said in a post explaining the change that the tide is shifting away from Brat in part because of redistricting, as well as concerns about GOP Senate nominee Corey Stewart dragging down the ticket.

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“He’s at risk of getting swept out by a Democratic wave in a rapidly moderating district anchored by the professional Richmond suburbs,” Wasserman wrote of Brat. “The white collar Republicans in the West End Richmond suburbs who long supported Cantor could be the swing voters in this race.”

Brat used to sit in a comfortably red district, but courts struck down the state’s congressional map and forced the state to redraw the lines shortly after his election in 2014. President Trump won Brat’s district by 6 points in 2016.

Spanberger represents Brat’s toughest challenge yet. She’s backed by key Democratic groups like EMILY’s List, as well as top state officials like Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D). She’s virtually tied Brat in fundraising this cycle, although the incumbent has a more than $500,000 cash-on-hand advantage because he had no serious primary challengers.

Cook’s ratings changes also included good news for Republicans, as the analysts pushed Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s (R-Pa.) seat from “toss-up” to “lean Republican.”

Fitzpatrick is in the fight of his life in a suburban Philadelphia district that narrowly voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. His Democratic opponent, Scott Wallace, has deep pockets that will prove helpful as he looks to take down the incumbent.

Republicans have been hammering away at Wallace by highlighting potentially controversial donations from his family foundation. The Democratic candidate has been forced to address those attacks in his television advertising, calling the charges misleading.

Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick has won endorsements from across the aisle, from former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the AFL-CIO, which typically backs Democratic candidates.

Those dynamics, plus public polling from Monmouth University showing Fitzpatrick ahead by a slim margin, depending on the turnout model, convinced Cook that Fitzpatrick is in the driver’s seat.

“In a year when other suburban Republicans are being lumped in with the Trump brand, Fitzpatrick is a genuine moderate with a good story to tell,” Wasserman wrote. “Even in waves, candidates still matter, and there’s a wide path for Fitzpatrick and Republicans to disqualify Wallace as out of touch.”

Tags Brian Fitzpatrick Donald Trump Eric Cantor Hillary Clinton

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