It’s amusing to watch the strange new respect Democrats are mustering for Eric Cantor. Xavier Becerra was on Morning Joe lamenting how Eric was just the sort of responsible Republican who wanted to get things done. I think Hugh Hewitt is right that Dems like Becerra don’t want to fix immigration so much as have the issue. But I do think the White House really does want a big immigration bill as part of their effort to pad his legacy. That’s why they are in overdrive to claim that, in Dan Pfeiffer’s words, “Cantor’s problem wasn’t his position on immigration reform, it was his lack of a position.” A White House aide notes that Lindsey Graham won his race running away and he’s far more associated with immigration reform than Cantor was. This of course leaves out the fact that Graham is a much better retail politician than Cantor. It leaves out that Graham saw the threat coming years ago and wisely panicked early about a tea-party challenge. And it leaves out that Graham was in a seven-way race. If he’d had a single opponent, like Cantor (or Cochran), who knows how differently things would have played out.
Now, I actually think there’s a grain of truth to Pfeiffer’s point. As John Fund notes below, Cantor’s biggest problem was that he seemed insincere, elitist, aloof, and concerned about agendas not connected to his district or his base. He held a fundraising meeting at D.C. Starbucks on primary day. Some of this was driven by his personality. The guy, even off the record, always seemed to be on message (though I should say I always found him to be personally gracious and decent). But the notion that immigration wasn’t the symbolic heart of Cantor’s problem strikes me as nothing less than ridiculous. And the idea that GOP congressmen are going to put much stock in the White House’s spin is flat-out unhinged.
Last night amidst the blizzard of chatter about Eric Cantor’s defeat, I tweeted, “Just for the record, a vote for Eric Cantor really wasn’t a ‘vote for open borders.’” This elicited a lot of dyspepsia in some folks. But it’s true. Cantor may have been wrong — or simply untrustworthy — on immigration, but his position was never to “open the borders.” Michael Brendan Dougherty, however, had a good response: “But a vote for Brat was definitely a vote against them.”
And that is certainly true also.