How did it happen?
That's the dazed question on everyone's lips in official Washington today. For some, it's a happy daze; for others, it's a fog of depression. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning defeat in a Republican primary on Tuesday—by a not-even-close 11 points—took the political world by surprise. It's difficult to piece together what happened, and many of the reasons being proffered seem self-serving. The reality is surely a mix many factors, but here are a few leading theories.
1. Immigration: If there's a consensus explanation for what happened, it's that immigration reform sank Cantor. Brat accused Cantor of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants over and over again. The majority leader is hardly a radical on the issue, but he worked to move some pieces of reform forward. In particular, he professed a desire to make some sort of accommodation for "DREAMers," undocumented children who were brought to the United States by their parents—although he also worked to keep a comprehensive reform bill from the House floor. Brat used these positions as a bludgeon in his race against Cantor; Cantor responded with fliers boasting he was "stopping the Obama-Reid plan to give illegal immigrants amnesty" and saying he didn't support "blanket amnesty." A pro-immigration group released a poll Wednesday pushing back, and argued that Cantor's district is actually fertile ground for immigration. But that's a minority view. Instant reaction to Cantor's loss is that it spells the death of immigration reform (assuming it wasn't dead already) and will scare Republicans away from further efforts for the foreseeable future.