Eric Cantor's surprise loss to Dave Brat in the VA 7th primary held a number of lessons for politicos and observers. But one of the key ones for his fellow members of the GOP was supposedly this: stay the hell away from immigration reform, and for god's sake don't mention the A-word. Politico, among many others, noted immediately after Brat's victory that immigration reform was dead. And lo and behold, recent bills to deal with the border crisis have now stalled in both Houses, with one Senator specifically warning his colleagues to thwart the President's will on this or face Cantor's fate.
The claims about immigration were probably overstated, as some even noted at the time. (Including my R-MC colleague Lauren Bell, who has the tweets to prove it.) Still, even if you grant that immigration reform had some potency in Cantor's loss, this was a national problem that his fellow federal officials might take to heart.
Local politicians heard another lesson loud and clear: pay attention to your district. Politico's excellent primary post-mortem noted how Cantor was focused on Washington to the detriment of his actual constituents:
Meanwhile, Cantor’s ambitions increasingly kept him in Washington and away from the district, associates said. The 51-year-old Republican was heir apparent to Boehner — and had a travel schedule and entourage to match — but those trappings of power backfired.
Virginia GOP Chairman Pat Mullins, a Cantor constituent who has known him for years, said Cantor “just wasn’t in the district as much as he used to be. Dave Brat was there.”
The word is that VA state representatives also saw this as a key factor in Cantor's loss, and they do not want to suffer the same fate.
VA residents shouldn't be surprised if they find an increase in the number of mailings they get from their delegates, for example, or see their State Senator popping up more often at local events. A number of Delegate offices that would normally be quiet this summer have instead been buzzing with activity, as staffers and interns fire off fundraising letters, thank-you's, and acknowledgements or helping their boss get to town picnics or parades.
Thanks to America's district-based voting, the old saw about all politics being local is as true as ever. Cantor's loss apparently has been a forceful reminder for VA state reps.