Larry Sabato on What Happened Last Night

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

Since it’s his state and his field, I e-mailed veteran Virginia political observer Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Here’s a quick Q&A:

Q: Was last night’s Cantor defeat a rare true political surprise?

A: It sure was. Some of the usual suspects are now saying they suspected this was coming. Malarkey! Rarely has a candidate won who was outgunned so badly in a traditional sense against these kinds of odds.

Q: People are saying Eric Cantor’s loss means something about immigration? What’s your read?

A: Immigration contributed but so did plenty of other things, from anger toward the whole GOP leadership, to Cantor’s having lost touch with his district, to his and his team’s overconfidence and aloofness, to some Democrats voting in the primary to take Cantor out.

Q: What do you make of reform conservatism and what, if anything, does Cantor’s loss mean for it?

A: Old lessons first. Stay close to your district and closer to your base. Remember that people may be proud a local boy has made good, but that sentiment can turn quickly if voters think you’ve gone Washington or sense too much self-importance in you and your staff.

Q: What’s your read of the current state of Washington, D.C.? What can get done with current numbers?

A: Very little, mainly treading water and grid-locking until after 2016.

Q: How might the numbers change come November?

A: Our current counts at the Crystal Ball have the GOP picking up a handful of House seats and four to eight Senate seats. But it is still early.

Q: What does the GOP future look like? In Virginia? Beyond?

A: I prefer to project election by election. Politics is inevitably cyclical.

Q:  Why don’t you ever get tired of politics?

A: Well, it’s what I do! And it is human nature writ large and endlessly fascinating, as Brat’s unexpected win proves anew.

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