Why Did Dave Brat Beat Eric Cantor?

by Joel Gehrke

Post-mortems on House majority leader Eric Cantor’s defeat will abound, but one contributing factor may be the decision by his campaign to attack Dave Brat, the political newcomer who challenged him.

It’s not just that Cantor punched down, giving Brat’s supporters a reason to think the incumbent was worried. It’s that, simultaneously, Cantor released internal polling that showed him leading Brat by 34 points, which may have signaled to Cantor’s supporters that they didn’t need to worry about his prospects.

Motivating your opponents while depressing your supporters’ turnout is not a recipe for success.