DAYBREAK DAILY: Behind David Brat's knockout blow to Cantor

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DOWN GOES FRAZIER, DOWN GOES FRAZIER: Or something like that, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “There were menacing signs for U.S. House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Few paid them any mind. Cantor’s shockingly lopsided loss Tuesday night to tea party-backed challenger Dave Brat for the 7th District seat he first won in 2000 was a crashing end to an otherwise steady trajectory that Cantor expected would lead to the speakership. It was presaged by two little-noticed internal GOP battles.

“In March — in Cantor’s home county of Henrico — tea partyers and libertarians, disdainful of the congressman’s more traditional brand of Republicanism, blocked his forces from using a practice known as “slating” to take control of the county delegation to the party’s 7th District convention. Then, in May, at the district convention a short distance from the outer Richmond subdivision where Cantor lives, the same coalition of grass-roots insurrectionists voted out Cantor’s handpicked district chairman, Linwood Cobb, and replaced him with Fred Gruber, a tea party activist from rural Louisa County.

“The defeat of the second-most powerful member of the House is a signal that Virginia, despite its increasingly purple hue, is a battleground on which Republican newcomers — furious over runaway federal spending, health care reform and the nation’s porous borders — remain ascendant.”

CAMPAIGN CONSULTANTS STUMBLED: Didn’t see it coming, per the Washington Post, “The defeat of the second-ranking Republican in the House by an ill-funded, little-known tea party-backed candidate ranks as the biggest Congressional upset in modern memory and will immediately generate a series of political and policy-related shockwaves in Washington and the Richmond-area 7th district.

“ "People don't know how to respond because it's never been contemplated," said one Virginia Republican strategist, granted anonymity to speak candidly about Cantor's loss. (Worth noting: Cantor didn't just lose. He got walloped; David Brat, his challenger, won 56 percent to 44 percent.)

“In conversations with a handful of GOP operatives in the aftermath of Cantor's loss -- a loss blamed largely on an inept campaign consulting team that misread the level of vitriol directed at the candidate due to his place in Republican leadership and the perception he supported so-called "amnesty" for illegal immigrants -- there were several common threads about what it means for politics inside and outside the House.”

MEANWHILE: Brewing a stronger tea, per the Daily Press, “. . . The outcome was certain to not only ignite a leadership battle among the Republican majority in the House, but also to send a shudder though rank-and-file lawmakers who may become less willing to stray from tea party orthodoxy, particularly on the still looming debate over immigration reform. “This stunning news could be the first shot in an all-out war between the establishment and tea party over leadership control," said GOP political strategist Ron Bonjean, a former top aide to Republican leadership.

“The defeat of a congressional leader, especially one who is as prolific a fundraiser as Cantor, is almost unheard of. The majority leader’s loss was the biggest electoral shock to the House since 1994, when Speaker Thomas Foley of Washington, a Democrat, was swept out of office in the GOP tidal wave that ushered in Republican control. More recently, Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota was ousted as Senate minority leader in 2004.”

THE AFTERMATH: A splintered House GOP, per the New York Times, “The House Republican leadership, so solid in its opposition to President Obama, was torn apart Tuesday by the defeat of its most influential conservative voice, Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader. His demise will reverberate all the way to the speaker’s chair, pull the top echelons of the House even further to the right and most likely doom any ambitious legislation, possibly through the next presidential election.

“Conservatives who have helped fuel some of the most contentious showdowns over the last three years on issues such as immigration and raising the federal debt ceiling are likely be emboldened by Mr. Cantor’s shocking loss as they seek to replace him with someone even more closely aligned with their views.”

YOUNG GUN MUZZLED: Despite 11th-hour scramble, per the Los Angeles Times, “. . . Cantor, part of a new generation of Republican leaders who called themselves Young Guns, reacted in full force in recent weeks. He pummeled the airwaves, spending more than $5 million on the race, including a direct-mail piece that took a harder line against immigration reform than he previously had.

“In many ways, however, the show of force gave more oxygen to Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College who had few resources and almost no outside cash to aid his underdog effort. To Cantor's millions, Brat raised only $200,000, and spent even less, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: Depends on who you ask, per The Hill, “Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) surprise loss in Tuesday night’s GOP primary doesn't mean voters have rejected immigration reform, the White House argued Tuesday. Cantor, the first majority leader to ever lose a primary, was upset by Tea Party challenger Dave Brat, who repeatedly accused Cantor of favoring “amnesty” for illegal immigrants on the campaign trail.

“But a pair of White House officials on Tuesday night said the primaries were actually a rebuke of Cantor’s attempt to take "both sides" on immigration reform. They noted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who participated in the Gang of Eight immigration negotiations in the Senate, had easily defeated his Tea Party challengers in his own primary.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Eric Cantor had several million dollars, seasoned political consultants and a poll-tested message. Dave Brat had two paid staffers who ran his campaign on a flip phone.

“That contrast is a microcosm of the difference in sophistication between Cantor’s campaign, and the insurgent challenge of Dave Brat, a relatively unknown economics professor from Randolph Macon College. And it illustrates just how shocking it is that Brat was able to topple the majority leader after 13 years representing Virginia’s conservative Seventh District in Washington.”

OOPS: Just the facts, per City Paper, “Logan Circle wine bar operator and independent D.C. Council at-large hopeful Khalid Pitts could be headed for a strong showing in November's race. He's got a hefty fundraising operation, and a bunch of national-level operators to go with it. Here's one problem for Pitts, though: Until a few months ago, he had never been registered to vote in the District.

“Despite living in the District for 19 years, the Logan Circle wine bar owner only registered to vote here on Dec. 31, 2013, three months before announcing his run for office.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Nationals beat San Francisco 2-1.

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NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Virginia Sen. Dick Black (R-Loudoun), who will be asked about the allegations of dirty tricks in the sudden resignation of colleague Phillip Puckett (D), a move that gave the GOP a victory in its budget standoff with the governor, Terry McAuliffe.

--Skip Wood