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Cantor’s loss catches Washington off guard

WASHINGTON — The House majority leader’s shocking loss has already joined the ranks of the biggest all-time political upsets.

No one had any reason to suspect Cantor was in danger from a primary challenge on his right.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON — During the post-game analysis of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking primary loss on Tuesday night, I tweeted that we need a political version of the Elias Sports Bureau, a go-to depository of political news and statistics we could use to put election results in an historic context.

Of course, we already have the next best thing: the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog.

The blog’s proprietor, analyst Eric Ostermeier, put up a post last night detailing just how surprising Cantor’s loss to challenger David Brat really is: it was the first time a sitting majority leader has failed to win renomination for his seat since the position of House Majority Leader was created in 1899. That’s 115 years and 55 election cycles.

In fact, Ostermeier notes, “Prior to Cantor, more house majority leaders had died in office (one — Democrat Hale Boggs of Louisiana in 1972) than lost a renomination bid (zero) since the Office of the Majority Leader was officially created in 1899.”

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It’s not surprising, then, that Cantor’s loss really caught everyone off guard. No one had any reason to suspect Cantor was in danger from a primary challenge on his right. This cycle, politics watchers had been much more interested in primary threats to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, defeated Texas Rep. Ralph Hall and Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, who faces a June 24 run-off election against a tea party-backed opponent. But Cantor, a well-funded, conservative member of House leadership and the man widely expected to succeed John Boehner as the next Republican House Speaker, wasn’t supposed to be a target, let alone a double-digit loser on primary night.

That made an already historic defeat a very surprising one as well, and Cantor’s loss has already joined the ranks of the all-time biggest political upsets.

Here’s some good reading on the Cantor loss today:

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry