RVA Politics is a blog about politics in the state of Virginia And the capital city of Richmond.

The author is a political scientist. Please don't hold that against him.

 

Cantor still blames Democrats

Eric Cantor is hanging around Cambridge, MA this month, as he's been invited to be a Spring Fellow at Harvard's Institute of Politics. And apparently, he can't let go of this idea that it's the Democrats' fault that he's there.

Immediately after Cantor's stunning loss to my former colleague Dave Brat back in June, the story circulated around that Cantor's loss was mainly the fault of spoiler votes from Democrats.

A reminder: Virginia has an open primary system. Voters do not have to declare their party affiliation, and can decide to vote in the primary for any party they would like, as long as they only vote once. The general complaint about this kind of primary system is that Democratic voters can sabotage the Republican Party, and vice versa. The Center for Voting and Democracy refers to this as "Party crashing," which "involves partisans strategically voting for a weaker candidate in another party's primary in the hope that the opposition party will nominate a candidate who is easier to defeat in the general election."

Who spread this story about Democratic voters back in June? Pollster John McLaughlin, who had predicted a Cantor landslide just the week before the primary. Of course, after such a huge whiff, you might expect a middling pollster (538 gives McLaughlin's firm a C in their pollster ratings) to cast about for a reason to blame someone else.

But there's two things to note about McLaughlin's claims. First of all, they were immediately discredited. Both the Upshot's Nate Cohn and the WaPo's Scott Clement looked at the data. Their conclusion: even if there was some primary crossover voting from Dems, there were nowhere near enough votes to generate Brat's big margin of victory.

The second point is the point of this post: Cantor himself can't let go of the idea. At a Harvard talk this week, Cantor got only a little bit reflective on his loss. According to the Harvard Crimson,

Regarding his failed bid at reelection, Cantor said that a political miscalculation was to blame, combined with his support of various initiatives that he said did not gain unanimous support from his Republican base.

“The mistake made in my primary was the assumption that we had Republicans only voting,” Cantor concluded.

Kudos to Cantor for kind-of recognizing that a lot of his district's Republican base wasn't on board with him, but that's quite a kicker. Nope, Eric, it wasn't the Democrats that ended your political career. It probably had more to do with the problem New York magazine diagnosed: "everybody hates Eric Cantor." (Especially voters in the Virginia 7th.)

[H/t to Peter Feltman.]

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