In a historic primary upset in Virginia on Tuesday, House Majority Leader and Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, was defeated by his Tea Party-backed challenger Dave Brat.
The defeat is being treated as a shocking political development by national media outlets and pundits, as few thought it possible that Cantor—one of the most powerful GOP leaders in Washington—was under serious threat from Brat, a college professor who ran as "the true conservative" to the right of the Majority Leader as he took a specifically hardline and regressive stance on immigration.
Though Cantor raised a reported $5.4 million compared to Brat's $200,000 and outspent him 20-to-1, his challenger was ahead by a margin of 56 to 44 percent when Cantor conceded the race just before 8:30 PM.
According to Politico:
It’s one of the most stunning losses in modern House politics, and completely upends the GOP hierarchy in both Virginia and Washington. Cantor enjoyed a meteoric rise that took him from chief deputy whip, to minority whip to majority leader in the span of 13 years.
Cantor was seen by many as the next speaker of the House, biding his time until Ohio Rep. John Boehner wanted to retire.
But now, Cantor has just six months left in Congress.
As the Huffington Post notes, no sitting House Majority Leader has lost an election since 1899.
And The Hill described it as the "most significant jolt to the Republican establishment since the emergence of the Tea Party in 2009."
According to a news analysis by Ryan Grim, Cantor was the victim of the very monster he helped create. Referring to the Tea Party wing of the party, Grim explains:
Eric Cantor lost Tuesday night to tea party-backed David Brat, but the roots of the historic upset can be traced to the early days of the Obama administration.
More than any other Republican leader, Cantor was aggressively committed to the strategy of all-out opposition to President Barack Obama's agenda across the board, dating to his inauguration. The House minority leader at the time, Cantor rallied the Republican conference to unanimously oppose the economic stimulus early in the president's first term, stunning Democrats and setting the stage for what would become a consistent pattern.
As the tea party rose across the country, Cantor was the Republican leader who embraced it most tightly, his presence a constant threat to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who regularly looked over his shoulder during negotiations. The tea party helped Republicans take the House in 2010, and fueled a government shutdown.
Yet the grassroots movement never fully embraced Cantor in return. And on Tuesday, the architect of the Party of No strategy had it turned against him.