THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
June 10, 2014
Guest: Larry Sabato, John Stanton, Julian Walker
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This is kind of an exciting night. I`m sorry
to have bobbled everything on your show.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Well, it`s a long story. But thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
HAYES: Clearly, I thought Eric Cantor was going to lose, right?
MADDOW: Well, thanks, man.
And thanks to you at home for being with us.
It is now 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time here in New York, we are continuing our
coverage of what has been a truly startling development in the world of
American politics. Some people are saying tonight it is the biggest
political upset in their lifetimes.
At this hour, we can report that Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of
Virginia, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, he has
lost his seat in Congress, Congressman Cantor was widely expected to be
next in line to be speaker of the House, there was much speculation as to
the exact timing of when John Boehner would step down and give Eric Cantor
the speaker job. Well, that speculation is now moot because Eric Cantor
appears to be out of Congress all together.
Polls closed at 7:00 Eastern tonight in the commonwealth of Virginia. In
just a little less than an hour ago, this race was officially called by
"The Associated Press" for Eric Cantor`s Tea Party challenger, an economist
from Randolph-Macon College named Dave Brat.
Eric Cantor has served in the House since 2001. He was first elected in
the elections 2000, was sworn in, in 2001. He has been the House majority
leader, the number two House Republican since Republicans took control of
the House in 2011.
Tonight, though, it does appear that Eric Cantor`s political career may be
Really, honestly, nobody expected this result coming into tonight, but Eric
Cantor did concede this race with shock on his face tonight, just a short
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: Thank you. Thank you.
Obviously, we came up short. Serving as the seventh district congressman
and then having the majority to be leader has been one of the highest
honors of my life. I know there`s a lot of long faces tonight, and it`s
disappointing, sure, but I believe in this country. I believe there`s
opportunity around the next corner for all of us.
So, I look forward to continuing to fight with all of us for the things
that we believe in, for the conservative cause, because those solutions of
ours are the answers to the problems so many of us are facing today.
Thank you all, very, very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Eric Cantor represents a very conservative, very Republican
district in Virginia, and aside from this little primary issue, the seat
had been considered to be very safe heading into November at least. But in
the closing weeks of this campaign, Eric Cantor started to fight
increasingly hard against this insurgent campaign from a first-time
candidate, a local economists professor named David Brat.
Mr. Brat waged essentially a one-issue campaign against Eric Cantor, and
his issue was immigration. He accused Eric Cantor of supporting
immigration reform. He called it amnesty. He said Eric Cantor was
supporting amnesty, he was helping President Obama get amnesty in
And tonight, regardless of whether that was the reason or not, or other
dynamics at work, Chuck Todd earlier this evening, highlighted the role of
very low turnout maybe deciding this race tonight.
Regardless, this was a one-issue campaign, and that one-issue campaign for
Dave Brat has won.
Eric Cantor spent somewhere in neighborhood of about a million bucks trying
to hold on to his seat. For the sake of comparison, his challenger only
raised about $200,000 for his whole campaign.
Dave Brat just addressed his supporters a short time ago, in the seventh
district in Virginia, saying this is the happiest moment of his life.
But again, the big news tonight, the news that has landed like a political
bombshell is that Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, the
number two Republican in the House to John Boehner, he`s lost his seat in
Congress. Just an amazing development.
Joining us now is Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and host of "THE
DAILY RUNDOWN" here on MSNBC.
Chuck, as you surveyed the sort of national response to this, so far --
CHUCK TODD, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: Yes.
MADDOW: -- who is declaring themselves the winner here?
TODD: Well I think the winner are the people that are fighting a major
immigration reform. That is the crowd that feels as if they made the
loudest statement tonight by this win.
And that`s what you got -- you know, there`s going to be a lot of this is a
Tea Party victory. This is not like Mississippi Senate, Rachel. There
weren`t major -- you know, there was this professional Tea Party crowd.
There`s a difference. And there`s sometimes true grassroots movement.
This guy tapped in to the immigration issue, which is a much more organic
movement inside the Republican base. A little separate from the Tea Party
world. Sometimes we all conflate it because anyone that`s not
establishment gets labeled as the Tea Party.
But this really was about immigration. You didn`t have professional groups
in there and we had this perfect storm, as we`ve talked about earlier, with
what is in the news at the moment, right?
Dave Brat was basically -- what was his proof that Eric Cantor was,
quote/unquote, "for amnesty." I had him on my show this morning. I think
he used the word "amnesty" and "illegals" about every fourth word when I
was interviewing him this morning. But what was his proof?
Well, Eric was supporting the DREAM Act, his Republican version of the
DREAM Act. Well, what`s that about? It`s about children brought across
the border illegally, unaccompanied minors or minors, but people, it wasn`t
Well, what`s the current crisis that the border is dealing? It`s been
lighting up talk radio, Rachel. So, you had a sense of urgency to his
message right at the perfect moment that you`d want to have it, if you were
running this insurgent, truly more grassroots than I think that some of
this other stuff gets, some times, we would call it`s grassroots. When
you`re not spending $100,000, that`s grassroots campaign movement.
MADDOW: How does the Republican candidate -- and how does, specifically
the Republican leadership, thread these -- thread between these sort of
competing imperatives, right? Because, obviously, in the seventh district,
a single issue, somebody can unseat somebody like Eric Cantor who has been
there for seven years, specifically on the issue immigration. But we`ve
just also seen the latest couple of rounds of national polling on this
issue that shows even Republican voters broadly like the idea of
immigration reform. Republican voters even broadly won`t support against
someone specifically because they supported immigration reform.
It`s working in these microcosmic ways in these individual primaries.
Doesn`t reflect in the national polling and numbers on these issues.
And so, how does somebody like Cantor ever thread, ever do both of those
things, win at home and help the party win nationally?
TODD: Well, he couldn`t figure it out and he tried. I think, you know,
there`s been -- it`s interesting, there`s some immigration reform advocates
tonight that have e-mailed me said and, hey, Chuck, don`t declare
immigration reform dead yet. Eric Cantor was terrible on it because he was
secretly helping, but he didn`t know how to back it. He was pretending he
was against it in the primary. So, he was, you know, being the armadillo,
right? He was trying to have it both ways, where look at Lindsey Graham.
He`s unapologetic about being for immigration reform and he`s doing fine
I just -- look, I think that ultimately, again, you had everything come
together. You had one candidate channeling that outrage, and mostly,
Rachel, this is so concentrated in the rural south, and it really is in
these gerrymandered, world southern places that I think you`re seeing where
immigration has more of a bite. So, you`re asking, why doesn`t it show up
in the national polls?
Well, because the South still isn`t -- you know, that`s why it doesn`t show
up in the national polls? If you look at it regionally, you`ll see the
South is on a different place on immigration than pretty much anywhere else
in the country, particularly the West and Northeast in particular. But you
see it, it`s more acutely in the South. And we have been watching it this
year in all these primaries, that particularly in the Southern primaries,
immigration ends up being the most animating issue in order to at least
talk to the base or have a conversation with the base of the Republican
MADDOW: Chuck, can I just also ask you about the way Eric Cantor has done
his job as majority leader? Obviously, he`s got the job of trying to
wrangle different factions within the Republican Party, decide what to put
on the floor for a vote, decide who`s allowed to vote yes and who is
allowed to vote no when it`s politically difficult for those members.
How did he do in terms of managing factions within Congress? And did -- is
that ability to sort of not just compromise, but to understand limitations
and people`s -- what people needed political outs on, is that something
that hurt him with this insurgency at home?
TODD: Well, it certainly made it easy for Mr. Brat to say, this guy is the
establishment. Look what he`s doing. You know, he`s a wheeler-dealer. He
makes these things.
And, obviously, as you pointed out, that was Eric Cantor`s job, and in many
ways, he did a better job than anybody else in leadership in figuring out
how to straddle the establishment insurgent conservative fence. You know,
he had a better relationship for instance with the Republican Study
Committee than John Boehner did.
So, he was able to make those deals when necessary, sort of keep things at
bay, particularly, I would argue, over the last 18 months. It was a
difficult job for these guys in 2011 and 2012. You saw them as they sort
of lick their wounds for losing the presidency in `12. You saw them become
more cooperative with Eric Cantor and the Republican leadership
But I think when it comes to Cantor specifically, he did touch with his own
district a bit. We saw some hints to it about a month ago. He couldn`t
get his candidate elected chairman of Henrico County seventh congressional
district convention, right?
MADDOW: That`s right.
TODD: He lost to Dave Brat`s candidate. You know, that was like sign
number one. But I -- there`s one reporter who said, you know, over the
last year, Eric Cantor would have to send a press release locally to let
people know he was coming to the district, he didn`t come at often because
he was being a national leader.
He was traveling the country, helping other raise money. He was doing the
things that were both keeping him in power, but also racking up chips so
that he could become the next speaker of the house.
And make no mistake, John Boehner was -- the smart money was on Boehner
retiring sometime next spring. Get the House Republicans reelected, get
through December, and sometime in February or March, perhaps resign.
And this was -- there was nobody else who was going to have the votes to
topple Cantor. Now, this throws it wide open. And there is no -- unless
Paul Ryan wants this thing, and he may be too close to the immigration
issue at this point, but unless Paul Ryan wants it, there`s a huge vacuum
now as to the future leadership of the House Republicans.
MADDOW: For those of us who very much enjoy reporting on inter-Republican
chaos, the world just got a --
TODD: You got a lot -- I was just going to say, you don`t have to look
hard for news stories over the next six months.
MADDOW: That`s right. Amazing stuff.
Chuck Todd, thank you, my friend. >
TODD: All right, Rachel.
MADDOW: NBC News political director, host of "THE DAILY RUNDOWN."
All right. I want to bring in Larry Sabato. He`s director of the Center
for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Whenever anybody across thinks Virginia politics, we want to know what
Larry Sabato is going to say to explain it.
Professor, thanks very much for being with us tonight.
LARRY SABATO, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA (via telephone):
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the seventh district and whether or not the
national media should have seen this, should have seen this coming, whether
it shouldn`t have been such a shock. It is such a conservative district
that Eric Cantor should have been seen as more vulnerable than he was?
SABATO: Well, Rachel, it`s a 57 percent Republican district, at least
judging by the 2012 presidential election. So, it`s not overwhelmingly
I think, if I could focus on something that Chuck pointed out -- naturally,
we look for national issues like immigration to draw these strands
together, whether it`s Mississippi senator or this Eric Cantor race, but
Chuck pointed out something important. Eric Cantor not only lost touch
with some of his district and because of his position and all of his
national and international travel, but he actually had a machine.
This was a real machine, and the Cantor machine in seventh, like all
political machines over time steps on toes. When you step on enough toes
and you make enough enemies, you create the conditions for a tremendous
upset like this, which is for -- in Virginia, the biggest upset in
primaries since 1966.
MADDOW: In terms of machine politics, though, one of the great advantages
of machine politics is supposed to be turnout. That you`ve got your
tendrils, right, into so many of the institutions that you`re able to use
the existing infrastructure in your congressional district or in your city
or in your state to get your people to turn out even when people don`t
particularly feel enthusiastic about you.
Looking at the total, the vote total so far on this race, we`re watching
the last precincts come in, it seems like this was a small turnout -- I
mean, 35,000 something votes for David Brat. 28,000 something votes for
Cantor. The turnout wasn`t there overall. Is that the mathematical key to
why Eric Cantor didn`t win?
SABATO: Well, obviously, it`s who did turn out. But, actually, Rachel in
Virginia, for primary turnouts, that`s really impressive.
SABATO: That`s a high turnout.
So, no, I don`t think this can be blamed on low turnout, it was the fact
that David Brat`s people were really charged up. We did see evidence of
that. Chuck mentioned the Henrico County convention where the chair, the
longtime chairman of the seventh district who was a Cantor ally was tossed
out on his ear, and Cantor himself was booed in front of his family, booed
lustily behind many of the delegates.
This is unheard of. You know, he had run that district like a personal
preserve. I think he and his people fooled themselves into believing that
they could do what you said. Use that machine that always worked, at least
since first election in 2000, and generate enough to overcome the Brat
forces, the anti-immigration forces, the Tea Party forces.
I`ve got to say, though, this is -- in this state, as we have seen in
Mississippi and a lot of other places, this is a party at war with itself.
It really is at war with itself.
I`m old enough to remember when the Democratic Party was at war with itself
in the `60s and `70s. It reminds me very much of that.
MADDOW: Larry, let me just ask you one question that seems maybe slightly
beside the point at this point, but the Democrats for a long while, when it
looked like Eric Cantor had a real tight hold on the seat, they didn`t
necessarily say they were going to run somebody against Cantor in November,
a couple days ago, they did pick somebody, Jack Trammell, who happens to be
a professor at the same university where David Brat is a professor.
Again, this is sort of beside the point in terms of national implications,
but is David Brat, the dragon slayer now, going to be able to walk into the
seat, or is this a fight between two unknown professors from the same
college fighting it out in the general?
SABATO: Well, Brat is certainly the favorite because it is a 57 percent
Republican district, but it is amusing this small college, Randolph-Macon
College, is going to have its own Congressman. And all I can say is I`m
glad I`m not there because the faculty wars are bad enough when you don`t
have two faculty members running against each other.
MADDOW: Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for
Politics -- thank you so much for being with us tonight. I really
SABATO: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Just an absolute political stunner tonight. One of the biggest
upsets in modern American political history, in Virginia`s seventh
congressional district, which you would never think was a national
important thing, except for the fact that was the perch for House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor for the last seven terms, and he, tonight, has lost his
primary election to try to hold on to his seat in Congress. He`s lost to a
Tea Party challenger named Dave Brat.
There`s some question whether or not Mr. Cantor might be able to try to
write -- to run a write-in campaign to try to hold on to his seat. Whether
or not that`s even legally possible, Mr. Cantor in his concession tonight
gave no impression that he was planning on doing something like that.
This is an OMG day in American politics. Much more to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: The House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost his seat in the
House of Representatives tonight in an absolute stunner out of Virginia.
We overuse the words "stunning" and "shocking" in political coverage, but
tonight, we have earned both of those words.
We`re going to have much more ahead on the story tonight, including what
this does immediately to the Republican power structure in Washington, and
MADDOW: Political ads are forever. They are forever even when the
candidates themselves wish they would go away. They`re an indelible record
of what politicians say and promise and allege and screw up.
So, for example, this year in Kentucky`s Senate race, Senator Mitch
McConnell tried to disappear a screwed up ad where he showed by mistake
players from North Carolina`s Duke University celebrating a championship
instead of players from the University of Kentucky.
Senator McConnell convinced YouTube to block just about the only record of
the embarrassing mistake of an ad, but a Kentucky blogger named Joe Sanca
(ph) yanked that clip out of the memory hole and now, Mitch McConnell is
stuck with everybody being able to see the campaign ad that he tried to
Video is forever. In politics, it is the closest thing we have to a
permanent record. The time you called some guy "macaca" when you got
annoyed with him at a campaign event, that`s forever.
That time you were just trying to flip pancakes, and -- whoops, there he
is, that`s forever.
That time you were Mitch McConnell running for Senate in Kentucky and you
accidentally showed Duke celebrating their win instead of Kentucky, that`s
That time you were a congressional wig shot used to getting things your own
way on everything in Washington, but you went home to your home district,
for your local political convention, and they booed you and heckled you
like crazy -- that`s all on tape. That`s forever.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: When I sit here and I listen to Mr. Brat speak, I hear the
inaccuracies. My families here --
CANTOR: We are about a country of free speech, so decency is also part of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Congressman -- incumbent Republican Congressman Eric
Cantor last month, running to try to hold on to his congressional seat in
the seventh district of Virginia. Eric Cantor won seven terms in a row in
that district. He`s the House majority leader in line to become speaker
after John Boehner, and we learned after the race he couldn`t go home to
his local Republicans in his district without getting booed.
While Congressman Cantor was working away at the top tiers of Republicans
in Washington, this is what his challenger Dave Brat was telling the Tea
Party crowd back home. This is a press conference that Dave Brat called on
the doorstep of Congressman Cantor`s home district office in Virginia.
And you`ll see from this clip, you`ll see that this was a true shoestring
operation by Dave Brat. You`ll see that in part by the way they have to
flip the camera around midstream so it will come out OK eventually when
they post it on YouTube. It`s a little disorienting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE BRAT (R-VA), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Eric Cantor`s promise of
citizenship for illegal immigrants has opened the floodgates on our border.
Eric Cantor has repeatedly over and over again promised citizenship for
those who illegally enter our country. Mr. Cantor continues to demand
citizenship for illegal immigrants and continues to erase our borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Heading into tonight`s primary, Brat had been blasting away at
Congressman Eric Cantor over immigration, amnesty and immigration over and
over again. And Eric Cantor responded to him, responded to this Tea Party
challenge in his home district that was all about Eric Cantor being soft on
Eric Cantor, and I think this is important, he responded to this primary
challenge in a two-track way. The first way was in his political ads, the
video. The videotaped evidence of this campaign that Eric Cantor is smart
enough to know would be his legacy forever. And in a way, it would be the
legacy forever for the Republican Party as a whole since he is their
majority leader in Congress.
So, he got very risk-averse when it came to putting things on video. The
ads Eric Cantor ran in this race were the most milquetoast things you have
seen in your life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: Most new jobs today are created by small business, but too many in
Washington want to raise their taxes.
Let`s empower people, not government, and we`ll kick our economy into gear
again. This is Eric Cantor and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s the ad equivalent of pleated chinos. You see it and it
just disappears immediately. I want good things, not bad things. Join me.
You run for office, you pick where you`re going to take a risk. Eric
Cantor chose not to take a risk on tape.
His campaign videos and campaign ads, they were the political equivalent of
have a nice day, right? I mean, look at me, I already am congressman.
Don`t I look like a congressman? Don`t I kind of seem like I belong in
Washington? Send me back there, no harm done.
And that`s one track of how Eric Cantor tried to handle his Tea Party
challenger. The Tea Party challenger had no money to run his own ads, but
when Cantor was running them, that`s what they looked like. Tea Party
challenger was killing Eric Cantor on immigration, press conference after
press conference, even after they learned how to hold the iPhone the right
And in response, Eric Cantor on tape, on video, he ran this race basically
as a smiley faced emoticon that says nothing. That was one track.
But then, here`s the other that Eric Cantor ran on simultaneously. Over
the past couple of weeks, Eric Cantor has been mailing out these flyers in
his district. He`s not putting for all eternity on TV and posting them on
YouTube for the national media to chew over. He only did this stuff as
Eric Cantor just quietly, proverbially blowing up your mail box with the
message that no matter what you might have heard, Eric Cantor is against
immigration reform. Eric Cantor is torching immigration reform. Eric
Cantor is burning immigration reform to the ground. Eric Cantor is
rejecting President Obama`s latest immigration scheme.
Quote, "Eric Cantor is the number one guy standing between them and the
American people on immigration reform. Eric Cantor would like you to know
And that has been the character of his campaign, at least as far as he
mailed it to his constituents` mailboxes. He didn`t put it on the video
where it might end up on the intertubes and on TVs where, I don`t know,
Latinos or somebody might see it if they were noodling around wondering
about the views that Republican Party leadership on immigration reform.
No, what you might find online is, ah, he seems like a nice man, but the
way he was actually trying to campaign for office at home was much more
hard core -- immigration reform over my dead party.
Well, polls closed in Virginia at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. It was
basically just over an hour later when we got the absolutely shocking news.
Eric Cantor, House majority leader, seven-term incumbent lost his seat,
lost the Republican nomination to that Tea Party challenger Dave Brat, who
hit him over and over again, even though he had no money, hit him over and
over again on the issue of immigration.
Polls closed at 7:00, "A.P." called it basically an hour later.
Theoretically, Mr. Cantor could maybe try to run, to try to keep the sit as
a write-in, but in his concession speech tonight, he gave no indication he
might try that. This seems like the end of the road for him.
Eric Cantor`s fate as a member of Congress as a consequential story because
he`s the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and
they are in charge of the House of Representatives.
But there`s this question of how we extrapolate from the story. I mean,
it`s an important story in its own right, but watching this primary
challenge unfold in the last few weeks, watching how Cantor was trying to
publicly campaign one way and sort of secretly campaign in another, there`s
been this real question as to whether this primary campaign in Eric
Cantor`s home district should be seen as just its own thing, right?
Was it possible that Eric Cantor going hard-core anti-immigration in these
mailers and this campaign, that`s just what he needed to say and what he
needed to look like for this primary, but we shouldn`t see it as indicative
of a radical anti-immigration shift for the Republicans in Washington.
Yes, maybe it was just its own thing and the politics on immigration in
Washington are a separate thing.
We get back to those normal politics on immigration after Eric Cantor
comfortably defeated his primary challenger and went on to win the general
That`s not how it worked out. And, you know, maybe it still is an open
question. You know, the polls say nationally that immigration reform
continues to be popular, even among Republicans, supporting immigration
reform will at least not doom a politician`s chances at the polls,
according to the public polling.
But then, tonight happened and this political shocker in Virginia tonight
legitimately is shocking. And nobody quite knows what it`s going to do to
national politics, Republican or otherwise.
Steve Kornacki, John Stanton, live reporting from Virginia, all ahead.
Lots more to come. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: My wife and two of my kids are here, my mother and mother-in-law
here. They hear the falsehoods. But, of course, I`m tempted to fight fire
with fire. But instead, let me just leave you with some thoughts. Thank
You know, first of all, it is easy to sit in the rarefied environs of
academia, in the ivory towers of a college campus with no accountability
and no consequence. When you throw stones --
CANTOR: When you throw stones at those of us who are working every day to
make a difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was Congressman Eric Cantor getting heckled last month at a
meeting of the Republican Party local organization in his home district.
After Mr. Cantor was booed and heckled by the Republican activists from his
own district, they took a vote for who would be the Republican Party
chairman in his congressional district. Mr. Cantor already had his own guy
in that position, and Eric Cantor loyalist, whose chair of the local
Republican Party in Virginia`s seventh district.
Mr. Cantor pulled out all the stops to keep his guy in the chairmanship.
They sent out mailers to support the Eric Cantor guy. They apparently
posted out personalized trinkets to party loyalists, according to "The
On the day of the convention, Robert Costa at "The Post" reported that team
Cantor, look at this, bought up all the conference rooms in the hotel where
the convention was being held in order to deny their opponents any place to
meet. They went so far as to provide daycare for the kids of their own
Eric Cantor supporters.
Mr. Cantor himself hosted a breakfast. Vote for my guy to be chairman of
this local party. Eric Cantor did everything he could, but his guy lost
that party chairmanship last month in Eric Cantor`s home district.
Specifically, he lost to this Tea Party guy, who made a big show at a
previous Tea Party event in Virginia by berating a picture of an empty
chair that had a picture of an empty suit on it that was labeled Eric
This is the newly elected chairman of he Republican Party in Eric Cantor`s
home district. He made a big show out of saying that he would only call
him Mr. Cantor. He would not call him Representative Cantor because Eric
Cantor, according to him, doesn`t really represent anyone. Empty chair.
Maybe Eric Cantor knew then that tonight was coming, that a month later his
Congressional career in all likelihood would be ended by a Tea Party
challenger right there in his home district.
Maybe we should have all known then when we heard him basically get booed
off the podium, but we didn`t see it coming then. If we had, everybody`s
jaws would not be hanging open all over Washington and all over the country
Joining us now is our friend John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for
John, thanks for being here. It`s nice to see you.
JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: It`s good to see you.
MADDOW: So, Eric Cantor, obviously, is not just a huge player in Congress.
He`s the guy who runs the show on the Republican side. He makes the
decisions about what they do and what they don`t as much as John Boehner
What does this do to Republicans in Congress for him to have poofed
STANTON: Yes, I think that`s the biggest news out of this thing, frankly,
other than him losing, is that, you know, immigration was a big issue at
the end of this thing. I`m not sure that he lost to immigration. I think
it may have been he took it not that seriously to the last second.
But what it has to do with immigration and any other kind of a bill that
Barack Obama might be supporting or might be signed by Barack Obama I think
will have long-term repercussions for the last couple years, because he`s
no longer going to be able to marshal the troops to vote for spending bills
potentially, certainly for things like immigration, any kind of major
reforms to federal law or new policies that either side might want to do,
because I think all of his members are going to look at his election and
say, this is terrifying. We do not want to be Eric Cantor. If he can
lose, the guy that everyone sort of looked to as one of the most
politically acumen members of the House, they`re not going to want to do
Remember, he started the Young Guns with Kevin McCarthy which brought the
Republicans back into power. So, I think all of those members are going to
look at this and say if the guy who got me here can lose, why can`t I?
MADDOW: In terms of what happened to the Republican leadership, most of
the reporting and wondering is focused on how long John Boehner wants to
stay speaker. When is he going to step down so Eric Cantor can get the
job, that`s obviously moot at this point.
But in terms of who gets Eric Cantor`s job, and who -- how the leadership
gets rearranged, do you think the dynamics in Washington right now are
something that -- something like we should be looking for somebody who is
kind of like Eric Cantor to get that job or should we expect a more
revolutionary change within the Republican party where they try to get
somebody who is much more hard core, much more Tea Party, into the
leadership to reflect this election result?
STANTON: You know, I`ll be honest. I`m not positive. This actually could
have bigger repercussions than that.
If Eric Cantor is no longer there because his voters said no to him, I
think that is going to embolden a lot of the conservatives in the party
when they go into their leadership elections after the November general
elections, and they`re going to say, maybe we don`t want John Boehner.
Maybe we can in fact get rid of him. This maybe will send a signal.
And I think all of leadership, if I was in leadership, if I was Kevin
McCarthy, if I was John Boehner or anyone else that is associated with
leadership, I`d be very worried, not just about who gets his job but about
all of their jobs, because this is the kind of thing that is going to get
those people riled up.
MADDOW: John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for "BuzzFeed" -- John,
thanks very much for being here. I appreciate it. It`s going to be a big
STANTON: Any time.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. Just how big a deal is it that House Majority Leader Eric
Cantor lost his seat in a primary election? A Congressional leader not
even making it to the general election? It appears there`s a new chapter
in the history books tonight.
We`ve got much more on this still to come. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re back with the breaking news tonight that Virginia
Congressman Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House, has
lost his primary race tonight to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat. Eric
Cantor is out of Congress.
But the specific part of the story tonight about a Tea Party challenger
ousting a Republican incumbent in a primary, that ought to sound a little
familiar. In the 2012 election, Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock
defeated long-time incumbent Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican Senate
primary in Indiana. That`s how Dick Lugar left the Senate.
Two years before that, in 2010, Tea Party challengers defeated Republican
incumbents in Utah. It was Mike Lee beating incumbent Senator Bob Bennett
in Utah and "I am not a witch" Tea Partier Christine O`Donnell defeating
Mike Castle in the primary race for the nomination for U.S. Senate in
Delaware that year.
So, this sort of thing has happened in recent years. This sort of thing.
But not in any of those instances or any other instance that we could find
has a challenger, Tea Party or otherwise, even come close to ousting a
member of the leadership in Congress. These were the top three Republicans
in Congress. Before about an hour ago, one of them was Eric Cantor. That
is no longer the case.
Based on what we know right now about this breaking news story, it seems
unprecedented for a member of the leadership in Congress to lose their
primary bid. I mean, there are modern historical precedents for leadership
in Congress losing in the general election. They have been able to win
their party`s nomination and they went on to lose to the other party in the
general election. That`s still rare, but it has happened occasionally. It
happened in 2004 to the Democratic leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle. Mr.
Daschle had been a senator for South Dakota in 18 years, but he lost his
seat to the Republican candidate in a surprising election upset in 2004.
That was a big shock that year.
Ten years before that, it was Tom Foley, Democratic Congressman from
Washington state, and speaker of the House. He lost his seat in the
general election in 1994, 1994 was a big landslide year for Republicans,
but winning Tom Foley`s seat that year, ousting the sitting House speaker
in his home district, that was perhaps the Republicans` single biggest
victory in 1994, but it took somebody from the opposite party to do it.
When Speaker Foley lost his seat in 2004, he became the first speaker in a
century to be defeated for re-election.
Before Tom Foley, you would have to go back to the `50s, 1952, when a
Democratic leader in the Senate lost his seat to Barry Goldwater in the
general election in Arizona.
Members of the leadership in Congress losing their seats in the general
election, losing their seats to the other party, that is a rare thing. But
it is a thing for which we do have some modern examples in history. Also
run of the mill incumbents losing their primary races. We have modern
examples of that in recent years.
But a leader in Congress? One of the top members of Congress, one of the
most powerful leaders of the majority party in one chamber of Congress
failing to win his party`s nomination for another term? What happened
tonight seems to us so far in reading history an unprecedented thing, at
least as far as we can tell in the midst of this news story.
This is kind of the biggest thing like this that has happened at least in
Joining us now, Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" here
Steve, thank you for coming in. I really appreciate it.
STEVE KORNACKI, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Sure.
MADDOW: You said this was the largest political upset in your political
lifetime when we spoke earlier. Upon reflection, does it feel that way and
how consequential is this going to be for what the Republican Party is and
KORNACKI: Yes, in my lifetime, yes. Now, I was born in 1979, so that`s
the era we`re talking about. For the closest parallel that I can come up
with, sort of try to figure this out in the fly tonight, the closest
parallel I can find would be 1974.
In 1974, the dean of the United States House of Representatives, the
longest serving representative in the entire House, a man named Emanuel
Seller (ph) from New York, he`d been there 50 years -- excuse me, 1972 this
was, I got the year wrong, he was elected in `22. In `72, he lost in a
Democratic party. He was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
He would have, had he not been upset by a woman named Liz Holtzman (ph) in
the Democratic primary that year, he would have gone on to chair the
Watergate hearings in the `70s. We know about Emanuel Seller and the
Watergate hearings, but he lost in the primary because he was not for the
equal rights amendment, sort of the women`s liberation in 1970s. He was
Liz Holtzman who was about 30 years old, shocked him in the primary, and
the margin was 600 or 700 votes here in New York. That`s the closest
parallel I can find.
Other than that, when you talk about primaries and very senior members of
Congress, I can`t think of anything.
MADDOW: And even in that case, it`s the guy who`s poised to take a
leadership role, that might make him in the future a well-known person. It
is something like, but it`s not --
KORNACKI: The majority leader, right.
MADDOW: Just intense.
Well, how much should this be seen, and this is an inherently subjective
question. How much should this be seen as some sort of referendum on the
House leadership and overall fight of the Tea Party insurgents versus
Republican establishment and how much should we see this as an Eric Cantor
KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, there`s three things. First of all, I think we
have to stipulate. You know, there`s what happens in an election and then
how the political world interprets what happens. There`s two things don`t
have to sync up.
It`s pretty clear the political world is going to interpret this as
immigration, and that`s pretty clear I think immigration, you know,
definitely plays a role here.
MADDOW: How Brat against him.
KORNACKI: Right. But I think there are two other things to look at here.
One is the idea of entrenchment, the idea of Eric Cantor being a member of
the leadership, being sort of -- the idea of sort the face of Washington in
his district. You look at who has been felled by the Tea Party in the last
couple years. These are people who are the creatures of the Potomac, the
creatures of Washington.
Dick Lugar, 36 years in the Senate. There`s an issue of, hey, when was the
last time he was back in Indiana.
Thad Cochran in Mississippi right now, one of the longest serving, 36
years. Mike Castle in Delaware, had been 20 years in the House before he
went and run for the Senate. Bob Bennett in Utah, 18 years.
So, I think there`s -- part of the Tea Party, sort of the energy in the Tea
Party is to fight entrenchment, is to fight the idea people who go to
Washington and get Potomac fever. I think that`s one thing that affected
The other thing, this I`m curious about. I don`t know about, but we might
see reporting on in the next few days, there were Democrats in that
district, including a Democrat who ran against Eric Cantor once, known as
Ben Jones, former --
MADDOW: Cooter, from "Dukes of Hazzard".
KORNACKI: Cooter from the "Dukes of Hazzard".
So, he ran against Cantor about a decade ago, he is in that district now,
and he tried to start a movement among Democrats saying it`s an open
primary in Virginia. If you`re a Democrat, you can vote in the Republican
primary. You want to make Republican Party`s life miserable, you want to
make Eric Cantor`s life miserable, go vote for his opponent in this thing.
I don`t know what degree that was an issue tonight, what degree that played
a role. That`s something I`m curious about, too.
MADDOW: That will be fascinating to watch. You were sitting when I was
talking to Larry Sabato, and I was like, look how terrible those primary
numbers are. That turnout is awful. He was like, actually, that`s pretty
good. The numbers are pretty good and it will be worth watching to see how
many of them are Democrats.
KORNACKI: Because they don`t have primaries in Virginia. It`s always
conventions and primaries are the tool, John Warner, the Republican senator
for a long time, was going to lose a convention. His tool to save himself
was the primary, and yet, that`s going to be the thing to take Eric Cantor
MADDOW: Oh, it`s amazing. It`s just incredible night.
All right. Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" -- Steve,
thanks for being here. I appreciate it.
MADDOW: We`ve got still a lot more to come on this, including information
about who the Democrat is who is going to be running against David Brat for
what we thought was Eric Cantor`s congressional seat. We`ve got a live
report from Virginia on this straight ahead.
MADDOW: This is great. The Tea Party Republican who beat Eric Cantor in
tonight`s Virginia primary and cost Eric Cantor his seat in Congress, he`s
an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. He`s going
to be the Republican nominee for the congressional seat which Eric Cantor
held for seven terms.
Here`s the thing though, his Democratic opponent in November is also a
professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. The Democrat`s name is
Jack Trammell. He was just nominated for that spot on the November ballot
by Virginia Democrats this weekend.
Mr. Brat is an economics professor.
Mr. Trammell is a sociology professor. He serves as the director of the
honors program at Randolph-Macon. He`s also the author of a 2012 book on
slavery in the old confederacy. And he is not a politician.
But, very unexpectedly, Virginians in the seventh district are going to
have a choice between the sociology professor and economics professor, both
from the same school, both who they are likely to never have heard of ever,
ever before tonight.
Joining us is Julian Walker. He`s a political reporter for the "Virginian
Mr. Walker, it`s nice to see you again. Thanks for coming back. Thanks
for being here.
JULIAN WALKER, VIRGINIAN PILOT (via telephone): Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: So, I have to ask you about the seventh district. The lay of the
land there, obviously Jack Trammell, the Democrat in the race, thought he
would be running against Eric Cantor essentially as a sacrificial lamb.
Should be expect this might be a more interesting general election race
than it would have been before the upset in the primary?
WALKER: Well, as you pointed out, it`s the rumble at Randy Mac, which is
what Randolph-Macon is called here locally.
This is still the 7th district. It`s still a heavily Republican district.
The districts in Virginia, as are the districts in many other states, are,
are gerrymandered. So, this is a Republican-centric district.
So, it`s still an uphill climb for Mr. Trammel. But, fact that he is not
running an incumbent, he`s running against an insurgent Tea Party candidate
in Mr. Brat certainly makes this more of a wide open contest than it would
have been, presumably would have been if the nominee has been now departing
Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
MADDOW: Julian, in terms of Mr. Brat and his wider significance,
obviously, I said this earlier tonight. I don`t totally mean to be
overstating it. He is a bit of a dragon slayer having taken out the House
majority leader after being outspent 5-1 here.
But to what extent has Mr. Brat in this candidacy been embraced by Tea
Party factions or larger Republican interest groups, or conservative
interest groups in Virginia? Has he been kind of a stand-alone guy,
running a stand-alone campaign, or is he part of a larger movement that has
embraced him against the Republican establishment?
WALKER: He has been embraced by the Tea Party movement. What`s
interesting about this is that up until today, every publicly available
poll suggested that Dave Brat was going to draw 40 percent. And everybody
was saying that in and of itself would be able to deny Eric Cantor from
hitting the magical 60 percent threshold.
All of a sudden, we have the stunning outcome, where not only that he -- he
get over 40 percent. He toppled Eric Cantor by a significant margin.
He has been embraced by the Tea Party. There were some signs that this
might happen, although any body projecting this ahead of today is probably
selling you some fool`s gold at this point.
But there were some signs just about a month ago in Eric Cantor`s
handpicked long time local party boss in the seventh district was knocked
out at the local Republican convention for that district. And he was
knocked out by a Tea Party advocated, a Tea Party activist.
So, there were some signs of the discontent with the so-called
establishment candidates embodied, personified by Eric Cantor, but this
outcome left everybody flat-footed.
MADDOW: Absolutely. The hindsight on this is crystal clear. But it
always is. And, really, nobody saw this in foresight.
Julian Walker, political reporter for "The Virginian Pilot" -- nice to have
you back, Julian. Thanks very much for being with us.
WALKER: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Back in just a minute with more on just a crazy upset
night in high, high stakes American politics. Stay with us.
MADDOW: One Republican Party invention that has a question mark in its
future is the Eric Cantor invention called the Young Guns. The Young Guns
were supposed to represent the young, hip future of the Republican Party --
Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, and Eric Cantor, just radiating with youthful
Pretty much since the beginning of his career in the House, Eric Cantor has
been on the fast track to leadership in his party, won a second term in
`03, and was immediately given the post of deputy Republican whip, which
doesn`t sound like much, but it was a stepping stone. He then went on to
become number two Republican in the House, majority leader.
Eric Cantor for a time was on the short list for vice president in 2008, to
run on John McCain`s ticket. Imagine the world had John McCain picked Eric
Cantor instead of Sarah Palin. But he didn`t.
And Eric Cantor as majority as majority was recently poised to succeed John
Boehner, maybe soon, as speaker of the House. That expectation and that
speculation, of course, come to an abrupt and sudden end tonight within the
last few hours with the shocking news that Eric Cantor`s congressional
career has been terminated by a heretofore unknown economics professor in
his district, Tea Party candidate named Dave Brat.
This is an OMG day in the news. Amazing turn of event tonight. We don`t
have many days like this in American politics. We always say there`s a
shocker around every corner. Tonight is a real one.
Thanks for being with us tonight.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD."
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