'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Tuesday, June 10th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
June 10, 2014
Guest: David Wasserman, Kiki McLean, Steve LaTourette, John Allen
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I`m Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.
And we are covering breaking news tonight that has sent shockwaves through
the political world. Eric Cantor, number two Republican in the House,
member of GOP leadership, most associated with Tea Party strategy on the
economy and 14-year incumbent, Congressman Cantor lost his primary tonight.
And the big winner is not only Dave Brat, a little known professor who beat
Cantor, but also the Tea Party, an anti-immigration activist who powered
Brat`s underfunded campaign.
Now, here are the latest numbers. We can report that Brat won by 10
points, 56 percent to about 44 percent, 10, 12 points there.
Cantor is the first sitting majority leader in American history to lose his
party primary. He`s also one of the more conservative incumbents to lose a
Tea Party challenge, with a 96 percent lifetime rating for the American
What makes this upset consequential for the Obama agenda is, of course,
Cantor`s recent record. He regularly positioned himself to the right of
Speaker John Boehner. That didn`t help him win tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: But obviously, we came up short.
Serving as the seventh district congressman, and then having the privilege
to be majority leader, has been one of the highest honors of my life. And,
you know, when I set out to do, what the agenda that I have always said we
are about is we want to create a Virginia, an America that works for
everybody. And, we need to focus our efforts as conservatives, as
Republicans, on putting forth our conservative solutions so that they can
help solve the problems for so many working middle-class families that may
not have the opportunity that we have.
I know there`s a lot of long faces here tonight. And it`s disappointing,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Cantor`s loss also shows limits of big money and incumbency, as we
look over this race tonight, we can see he outspent his opponent not by
double, quadruple, but by 25 times.
Eric Cantor spent $5.4 million in this race to just about $200,000
according to the finance group, Open Secrets.
Now, his victorious opponent, professor Dave Brat won with a grassroots
campaign that relentlessly targeted Cantor on immigration and on incumbency
itself. Brat struck a thankful tone in his victory speech tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVE BRAT (R-VA), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I want to give thanks endlessly
tonight. This is the happiest moment, obviously of my life. And I owe it
to all of you in this room, number one. So give yourself a hand.
I do want to give special thanks -- because, in, in the bad times I know
where I went when things got bad. I went to God, I went to my family. And
this little note was hanging on my door every day. And I read this every
day. Luke 18:27, Jesus replied, what is impossible with man is possible
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: What is impossible with man is possible with God. Strong words
that are resonating across politics tonight.
Brat is certainly right about one thing -- leaders of both parties and most
professional political class thought his victory to night was indeed
impossible. There wasn`t enough money, or enough ads, or enough space to
Brat had some believers, though, people angry at President Obama, but also
incensed with what they as his treacherous enablers in Washington.
Here is conservative radio host, Laura Ingraham at a campaign event with
Brat. This is from just last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO HOST: I kind of wish thinking about this that
President Obama would have thought this through a little bit more. And
maybe, for getting Sergeant Bergdahl out, instead of sending five Taliban
MVPs over there, he could have just traded one Eric Cantor.
I had this crazy idea as of Dave Brat. In coming to our country,
respecting our laws, our sovereignty, our way of life, and our
Constitution, it`s (ph) a conditioned precedent to your becoming an
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, crazy or not, Brat`s idea seem headed to Washington tonight
and his upset has up-ended Washington Republicans. Some right now as we
are reporting are jockeying for Cantor`s leadership post. Other are
looking at tonight`s results and wondering whether they need to be more
scared of the Tea Party.
We`re going to be joined by former Republican Congressman, Steve
LaTourette, and Democratic strategist Kiki McLean for our breaking coverage
in a minute.
But, first, we`re going to go right to NBC News political director, Chuck
Todd, as well as MSNBC`s Krystal Ball.
You both join me on a big news night.
Chuck, this is why people follow politics and why politics is hard to
follow. Very few people expected this. What can you tell us about these
big upset results tonight?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS: Well, look, I think one thing you have to know about
the races is I do feel it was sort of a perfect storm of events that took
place and all came together tonight for Dave Brat.
Number one, Virginia, notoriously, a low turnout primary state in general.
No statewide primary campaigns on the ballot. Most, primary campaigns are
fairly new to Virginia. They, traditionally, picked many of their nominees
at state conventions.
The second thing is this immigration issue. You know, in many ways, you
are going to hear the word. Everybody is going to try to make Tea Party,
and conflate everything together and say this is Tea Party.
Well, let`s remember a couple of things. Number one, Tea Party groups
weren`t spending money in this race. They weren`t targeting Eric Cantor.
Eric Cantor had a pretty good relationship with professional Tea Party
crowd. And there is a difference. Immigration, much more animated, actual
But let`s look at the specific thing that Dave Brat was hitting Eric Cantor
on, to sort of prove that Cantor was, quote-unquote, "for amnesty." It had
to do with Eric Cantor wanting to do his version of a DREAM Act, which, of
course, has to do with giving some sort of legalization, status, possibly a
pathway to citizenship, for any children of undocumented workers that were
here in this country.
Well, what`s been the big news of the last 72 hours? This crisis on the
border of unaccompanied minors flooding the border and suddenly getting and
not being, quote, "sent back" to Central American countries, right now,
it`s an issue.
Well, this has been lighting up talk radio. It gave urgency to Dave Brat`s
message right at the perfect time that the campaign was coming to its
So, you put all that together and I think it was sort of a perfect storm.
Look, there were other things. Eric Cantor didn`t mind his local politics
over the last couple years. Some little things like that. But I think the
power of the immigration issue, coupled with what was in the news in last
72 hours can`t be underestimated.
MELBER: Yes. I mean, Chuck, I hear that. The power of the issue, as
well as juxtaposition you always in politics. Here is a guy who was in
charge in some ways of -- of the national economy, but wasn`t in charge of
a couple local decisions being made on the ground, had trouble with the
Krystal, let`s look at the mailer for a moment. That is also what Chuck is
referring to. Eric Cantor who had back a type of immigration reform at
least in theory was putting out mailers at the end saying "I`m against the
Obama read amnesty bill." Sending that out. Getting that out in people`s
mailbox he`s thought was going to vote.
You know, Virginia well, this was a cross cutting issue right? And one
that, as Chuck`s reporting, he got on the wrong side of?
KRYSTAL BALL, THE CYCLE: That`s exactly right. And, you know, back when I
was campaigning in 2010, when we polled on immigration, it wasn`t the issue
that people were most focused on, it was not a huge conversation in the
news. We didn`t have a lot of illegal immigrants, undocumented immigrants
in my district.
And yet when you ask people how strongly they felt about the issue, the
passion was through the roof. And so, I think as Chuck`s pointing out when
you have a situation where it is a primary, where turnout is relatively
low. Although interestingly in this race, 65,000 ballots cast, compared to
38,000 ballots cast in a competitive Democratic primary up north to replace
So, relatively high turnout for this year for a primary. Immigration is a
very, very red hot energizing issue as the right, on the right, I think
Chuck is right to point out also the timing of the news and how that all
came together. The other issue that I`m interested in here too, is Eric
Cantor, you are pointing out, Ari, outspent Dave Brat by a massive amount.
BALL: Spending close to $5 million on the air. Dave Brat was not, of
course, on the air at all.
I wonder if that was a mistake, raising the profile of the race in a way
that if he had just ignored Brat, he may have actually had a better chance
MELBER: Right. And turning up the volume, Chuck, as Krystal is pointing
out. At a time when people are so unhappy with Washington.
I just want to play, a little sound from, one of Brat`s ad that talked
incumbency in the 5,000-plus days that Eric Cantor -- those days maybe
numbered now -- but the 5,000-plus days Eric Cantor had been in office.
Take a listen to that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Five thousand one hundred and ten days. That`s how long Eric
Cantor has been representing us in Washington, D.C., 14 years.
And in that time, he has given us Obamacare, TARP, 10 debt ceiling
increases, $13 trillion new debt, and now, he`s working behind the scenes
to push through amnesty.
He`s become another power hungry Washington insider.
Fourteen years in Washington is too many. On June 10th, go to your regular
voting location and support Dave Brat for Congress.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MELBER: I mean, Chuck, I wonder whether that ad there actually concisely
gets both issues, incumbency and immigration.
TODD: Well, except we are assuming that that ad had a lot of play, air
play. I mean, don`t forget he didn`t spend that much money.
So, you know --
MELBER: Chuck, let me tell you, I`m saying as -- you are right to point
out. Those didn`t reach a lot of people, because he didn`t have the money.
But that was the message that was getting out somehow -- talk radio or
TODD: There is no doubt. And I think that talk radio, I mean, this sort
of gets the other, like how did this sort of gain true grassroots
attention. And I think talk radio helped a lot. Laura Ingraham in
particular sort of took Dave Brat, took this race under her wing over the
last two or three weeks, and it created this -- a bunch of talk radio folks
got behind it.
But, you know, this issue of should Cantor have ignored or not ignored? I
don`t know if it`s a question of not ignoring, you don`t ignore these
primary challenges. That was the wrong lesson.
But it was -- how he went about it. And, you know, he was a bit ham-
handed, suddenly trying to say, oh, wait a minute. I`m not against
immigration. He almost sort of almost fed into what Brat was trying to
say, hey, this guy will just say anything to get re-elected. Just say
anything to appease you.
I think, sort of the ham-handed nature of some of the attacks that came,
that had the whiff of desperation to it in the Cantor world.
And so, I think it was sort of how he engaged. I would never take away the
lesson of, he shouldn`t have engaged this opponent. When you go, you go
for the kill.
MELBER: Right. All right. Chuck and Crystal, stay with us.
Big nigh here, so I`m going to bring Kiki McLean, Democratic strategist,
former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. Welcome.
And former Republican Congressman Steven LaTourette, president of the
Mainstream Partnership, which has been aligned with what some call the
governing wing of the GOP.
Congressman, let me start here with you. Your reaction to this loss? Your
thoughts on Eric Cantor, a fellow colleague of yours.
FORMER REP. STEVE LATOURETTE, MAINSTREAM PARTNERSHIP: Well, it`s stunning.
You have to grasp store straws to find the parallel in primary politics.
But it does repeat a pattern that has been consistent with -- with some of
the Tea Party activities. That is going to midterm, low turnout elections
and that`s when you can surprise somebody.
I don`t know that leader Cantor was necessarily surprised because of the
money he spent and everything else. But I do think rather than being some
national victory for the Tea Party, this, this to me, at least, really
shows how white hot the immigration issue is, at least with Republican
primary voters and certain parts of the country.
MELBER: And, Kiki, your thoughts, as we are report hearing tonight, this
massive upset of majority leader, Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in
KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you said it best at the
beginning of the show. You know, this is what politic is all about, these
moments of surprise and it`s confusing sometimes. And it won`t be until
the debt levels that we understand all of it.
But there are a couple takeaways from this and one is while Chuck rightly
points out that the organized professional Tea Party teams may not have
been in that district spending a lot of money, make no doubt about it.
This is a case where a candidate in the form of Cantor couldn`t quite make
up his mind. And was he there or was he not?
And as a result, he didn`t play a moderate Republican. And so, you see
where the Republican Party has gone. The Republican Party that is going to
be active is who chose their nominee today. And that means this halfway on
each side isn`t going to get a candidate where they need to be in their
primary and then potentially in the general.
So, the halfway in, halfway out. I think it`s a demonstration that by not
really asserting leadership, you are going to find you will lose to the
extreme of your party if you don`t exert your leadership and pick a path
and go forward.
MELBER: And, Chuck, just briefly, I want to touch on the other issue here,
which is Eric Cantor acknowledged his failure tonight, very clearly and
directly, but he did not use the language of suspending, or ending his
campaign. From what we know about Virginia law, it is technically
possible, although unlikely, that you can launch some kind of write-in
campaign. Your thoughts on that and whether there is any other way for him
to stay alive?
TODD: I would be surprised. First of all, there is a Democrat on the
ballot, if he does do that. It would probably elect the Democrat to
Congress, if he even tried to wage a write in. But there is a sore loser
law in the state. So, I don`t think he can file independent and put his
name on the ballot.
TODD: So, It is -- I think, Eric Cantor`s political career for now in the
7th district of Virginia is over.
MELBER: You heard it here. Chuck Todd putting a proverbial nail in the
coffin based on the facts as we have them. The difficulty of the only
remaining avenue he would have, that long shot write-in candidacy. We are
going to stay on the story.
I want to thank you, Chuck for being here. As well as Kiki and Steve
LaTourette, and Krystal Ball sticking around -- thank you all on a big
night for politics for being here.
Coming up, the Tea Party just scored a major win. What does Eric Cantor`s
loss mean for the Republican Party, writ large, what kind of Congress are
we going to have if the Tea Party takes over the leadership? Do they have
purchase on this vacating spot? More breaking news straight ahead.
MELBER: We are back with breaking news tonight.
House majority leader, Eric Cantor, the number two man in the House, lost
his seat tonight in Virginia`s primary. Establishment Republicans are
already wondering if it was Cantor`s stance specifically on immigration
that did him in or some sort of broader resurgence of the Tea Party that
Cantor tried to often be facilitating or in charge of, wrangling with
Speaker Boehner on many deals, or more broadly, as we unpack this night, if
Eric Cantor simply wasn`t a good candidate this year.
Now, if Republicans are looking for signs about what just happened, they
can also look to a key vote that happened just last month. We talked about
this early with Chuck Todd. This is when candidates handpick a candidate
for an obscure state party seat lost to an insurgent backed by David Brat
who won tonight.
The event also showed some rumblings against Cantor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: You know when I sit here and I listen to Mr. Brat speak, I hear
the inaccuracies, my family is here --
CANTOR: Listen, we are about a country of free speech. So, decency is
also part of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Tonight, they`re not only are questions about what happened but
also leaving this big vacancy, there is now, if Cantor does not run, there
is a vacancy and a big question about who will succeed him as the number
two Republican in the House. In fact, who even wants that job.
I`m going to bring back here, Krystal Ball, Kiki McLean, Congressman Steve
LaTourette, and joining me now, Jonathan Allen, Washington bureau chief of
Congressman, walk us through. You have been in the meetings where you have
the secret votes. Walk us through what happens if Eric Cantor doesn`t
launch a write-in candidacy, which we`ve reported would be difficult, if he
did lose and end his congressional campaign tonight, when does jockeying
start, what is it look like, who might replace him as the number two House
LATOURETTE: Well, one of the cruelest part of politics in Washington is
that people, begin jockeying for position before the body is even cold, we
say. So, I wouldn`t be surprised if there`s tweets, and e-mails, faxes,
and secret meetings going on all over the Capitol as we are speaking
tonight for people to fill the void.
Now, the natural answer to your question is Kevin McCarthy is the whip.
And days pass, then you sort to elevate up into the leadership, which is
Eric Cantor thought he would be speaker when Boehner is finished.
But, you know, this reminds me a little bit about when Newt Gingrich had
his problems and they threw out John Boehner, J.C. Watts came in and they
made a run at Dick Armey. And so, I`m not sure there isn`t going to be an
attitude that will throw out the entire bunch and see an insurgent
candidate, maybe a Jim Jordan, of Ohio, Mulvaney of South Carolina, Raul
Labrador, sort of bubble up from this faction within the House conference
and say that we need a true conservative now, which sort of makes me smile
because Eric Cantor is a very conservative guy. I didn`t think there was
any room to his right. But they apparently found some.
MELBER: Right. You know him. You served with him. You don`t think there
is room to his right, 96 percent lifetime rating from the Conservative
Union is pretty solid.
Jonathan, this is a night of politics and fundamental change for the
Republican Party. Is it good, in your view for the electoral prospects of
this party going into the midterms to have this big fight now, nationally?
JONATHAN ALLEN, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I don`t think it makes that much
difference, this one particular district. I do think the ongoing fight,
between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the Republican Party is
something that is difficult. I t makes it hard for them, for the
Republican party to have a clear agenda, that is offering the American
public, particularly in presidential elections and statewide elections for
the Senate and other races.
You know, one name that Congressman LaTourette did not mention that is a
big winner tonight is Jeb Hensarling, the congressman from Texas.
Financial Services Committee chairman who had been setting himself up as a
rival to Eric Cantor. I would not be surprised at all to see him make a
run for leadership, possibly, majority leader in the congress.
MELBER: Let me go to Kiki, what do you think, if there is an open fight
here, as the congressman saying potentially, for more than one leadership
MCLEAN: I think there are a probably a couple leaders in the Republican
Party are wondering who wants that job now? I mean, these are signs, with
these primaries and, this particular next Congress could be even more
obstructionist than the one we have today.
And that`s a real challenge. I think there are probably some people who,
in days past would have been anxious for the job. But now, look up and
say, no way, I don`t want to be in charge of this herd of cats.
BALL: Yes. I mean, Kiki, can you imagine, we`re going to be mourning the
days of the reasonableness of Eric Cantor. But I think that is what we are
staring down the situation where, people realize even if they`re in
leadership, they can`t get on with the business of governing without having
a giant target on their back in primaries. I mean, that`s what is really -
- that`s what is really unfortunate here.
We have talked a lot about Cantor`s stance on immigration reform. Another
issue that I don`t think played as large in the primary, but is a huge loss
is he has been someone who has been open to fixing the Voting Rights Act
and taking action on that in Congress. It`s unfortunate that -- that we
likely went have him to, to help us out as Democrats on that issue.
MELBER: Yes. Congressman LaTourette, what do you think of Krystal`s
points there and where he was positioned?
LATOURETTE: Well, I think that`s the difficulty that led directly to
tonight`s result, because Eric Cantor is a very conservative guy. He saw
what happened after the 2010 election, and he also is a smart, reasonable
guy who wanted to move towards moving some big issue. When you do that you
become a little bit pregnant, and when you are a little bit pregnant. You
are not pleasing either side. You know --
MELBER: So, I`ve got to tell you, I am confused about this. Let me play
some sound, this video, that he was on both sides, but also 96 percent
conservative. Here at the state Republican convention talking about how he
really knows how to stand up to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANTOR: It`s easy, it`s easy to stay -- say that you are going to stand up
to Obama and the left wing attack machine. But it is an entirely different
thing to actually do it. To actually -- to actually --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s the man who lost tonight. Congressman, when was he
halfway, about standing up to the president?
LATOURETTE: Well, what I am saying is he very clearly was standing up to
the president again, again and again. But on the immigration issue, I
mean, endorsing sort of his version of the DREAM Act, you can`t be
reasonable with some of these folks because the minute you say anything, I
would look to work with the president or I like to work with Democrats to
try to figure this way, it immediately leads this crowd to say, oh, that`s
buzzword for amnesty. That`s a secret Washington code for amnesty and
we`re going to come get you.
MELBER: Kiki, go ahead.
MCLEAN: Yes. It`s interesting, because Chuck raises an interesting point
when he talks about the perfect storm at the end. But perfect storms
matter if you are close enough to be within reach, right?
So, Brat didn`t make up 20 points, or 15 points in 72 hours. Cantor was
clearly in some danger but put it all within reach because of that perfect
And the issue about making a decision about where you stand on an issue,
you are far better off to take a position, even if it is unpopular, lock
in, and defend. And go build the votes around that that you need, than to
get wish washy at the end about where you are going to be, and appeal to
And that`s a politically tactical air railroad he made. But it`s also an
error that demonstrates where the Republican Party is going because they
don`t really have control, or a vision of where they are going. And that
some of their members are floundering out there.
MELBER: I think that`s well put. And again, when we go back to all the
fiscal crises that we have, that Eric Cantor led and pushed John Boehner
into, they did exercise policy concessions. They did have victories to the
extent their base cares about that.
Maybe they don`t care about policy victories alone. Maybe they`re so
angry. They just want a lot of these guys out.
Kiki McLean and Steve LaTourette and John Allen thank you for joining us in
our special coverage tonight.
Krystal stays with us.
Coming up, the big blow to immigration reform. What is the new Congress
going to look like? That`s a question on everybody`s mind. And who is
this potential new member, Dave Brat, on at least the Republican line,
replacing Eric Cantor. We`ll tell you more about the Tea Party challenger
who beat the number two man in Washington tonight.
MELBER: This is an earthquake. That is what one former Republican
congressman has said of Eric Cantor`s stunning lost in the Virginia
primary. The second most powerful man in the house, often considered to be
the next speaker, rumored to have the voted if that job came up. Eric
Cantor`s lost is devastating to the Republican establishment.
If Eric Cantor the right-wing thorn in speaker Boehner`s side for the
better part of the Obama era, if Eric Cantor wasn`t conservative enough for
Virginia Republican voters, what does this mean for the Republican party
right now? And what does a Cantor-less Congress look like as we head into
Joining me now is David Wasserman, house editor for the Cook Political, and
back with us my colleague, Krystal Ball.
Krystal, let me start with former speaker Pelosi`s reaction to this
tonight. This is fresh off, her press. She says Eric Cantor has long been
the face of house Republicans extreme policies, debilitating dysfunction
and manufactured crisis, Tonight a major victory for the tea party as they
pull the Republican party further to the radical right. And then Pelosi
says as far as midterm elections are concerned it is a whole new ball game.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: I don`t know that I would go that
far, a whole new ball game. I mean, one thing I would say, I think this is
definitely another wake-up call to Republicans. And unfortunate wake-up
call where they again realize that this purity test on their side of the
aisle is very real. So any thought they had of trying to govern, is
certainly going to be gone at this point.
In terms of the broader midterm dynamics I don`t know if it really changes
the calculus unless this guy, which we don`t know that much about Dave Brat
yet. We haven`t heard that much from him. We have heard some very extreme
rhetoric on immigration, but not a lot else. If he turns out to be a Todd
Aiken-type seeker or Richard Mourdock-type figure, Sharon Angle (ph),
Christine O`Donnell, if he says really inflammatory things that capture the
attention of the national public, well that begins to shift the ground.
But as of now, I wouldn`t say that this one election result is really a
ground shifter for 2014.
MELBER: Right. And I think part of what some Democrats are hoping for is
that the names you mentioned, the kind of extreme people they may take
Cantor`s place in leadership, separate from what is happening out in these
David, walk us through. You follow these races so close. Walk us through
how tonight`s results compare to the political support that Eric Cantor
previously had in the district?
DAVID WASSERMAN, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well look, Eric Cantor previously
won without much competition against token candidates. Tonight what I
think we saw was a complete paradigm shift. This race, this primary took
place outside of the normal sphere, the traditional media pay attention to.
Most primary voters in this district were tuned into Brat on a grassroots,
word of mouth basis. Whether they were going to conservative media
outlets. Whether they were getting e-mails from friend in the last week of
the campaign. It is clear the race closed rapidly in the final week.
And you know, a telling sign was that about a week ago, Laura Ingram, you
know, the conservative radio personality came down to the district to the
500-person rally with Dave Brat, in which she proposed, come tongue in
cheek, that Eric Cantor be swapped for Bowe Bergdahl.
And that`s the kind of (INAUDIBLE) resonates with the conservative base in
a place like Virginia 7. And let`s face it, Eric Cantor, stylistically, is
always been button down, suave, very polished. He is not the perfect fit
for a gun-owning, fairly rural conservative district outside of Richmond.
MELBER: Right. You are speaking the culture. We played some of that
sound earlier in the broadcast. Whether a joke or not, it certainly,
crystal in poor taste, given sensitivities around the issue. But it also
spoke to the idea that we hear often about President Obama from
republicans. But also about Eric Cantor here. the idea that if you
disagree with me on immigration or on my tea party priorities, that you are
settling a traitor or un-American.
BALL: That`s right. And here, the issue of immigration became that
rallying cry. It was something tangible. People could hang on to, as I
said earlier, a red hot issue that, that really emotion runs deep with the
But we have also talked about the fact that a lot of this, tea party versus
establishment question, isn`t so much about ideology, as it is about tone.
As the it is about the sort of rhetoric and the sort of heat that is used.
So I think you are right to point out that Cantor`s demeanor, style, is
maybe not the same as the sort of red hot, angry, red meat, wanting tea
party folks, grassroots folks who ultimate low threw him out.
MELBER: David, speak to Krystal`s point. Because when you talk to folks
on the hill, you know, there are certain members that are just more popular
than others. Whenever you think of John Boehner, there are a lot of
Republicans who talk about him like a sort of friendly uncle figure with
Merlot and a nice tan, whatever. You don`t hear that kind of personal or
social appreciation for, for Eric Cantor from people who know him. Can you
speak to that?
WASSERMAN: Yes, who would have thought John Boehner would win his primary
with 69 percent and that Eric Cantor would go down in defeat by 12 points.
But it speaks to the notion that even if Boehner was perceived to be more
of the mod to Cantor`s more conservative figure in the house for a number
of years, Boehner could still go back home to Ohio`s 8th district and shake
hand in bars and the outside of coffee shops. Whereas Cantor --
MELBER: Wine bars even.
WASSERMAN: Yes, and cigar bars. And had, you know, maybe, less of an easy
time, connecting, Cantor did in rural parts of Virginia 7. And ironically,
redistricting, made Virginia 7th district, even more rural after the last
round of redistricting.
MELBER: Right. And the idea of being more rural and more conservative is
something many Republicans say is a synonymous with having a safe seat. It
is not safe though if some of those conservatives don`t care as much about
your party label as about what we talked about tonight, your issues, your
tone, your style. A big sea change here in the Republican party that we
are reporting on.
Dave Wasserman, thanks for joining us. Krystal stays.
Coming up, who is the guy that beat Eric Cantor? You are going to need to
know about him. That`s next.
MELBER: Tonight, House majority leader Eric Cantor became the first person
in American history to lose his primary while holding that position. David
Brat beat Cantor by 12 points, 56 percent to 56 percent to 44 percent. And
this is as we have been reporting sending a shock wave through Republican
Cantor had, of course, positioned himself to the right of speaker Boehner.
But that apparently was not enough for primary voters in Virginia tonight.
And here is Cantor speaking about his unexpected loss tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Serving as the 7th
district congressman and then having the privilege to be majority leader
has been one of the highest honors of my life. And, you know when I set
out to do and what the agenda that I have always said we are about is we
want to create a Virginia and America that works for everybody. And we
need to focus our efforts as conservatives, as Republicans, on putting
forth our conservative solutions so they can help solve the problems for so
many working middle-class families that may not have the opportunity that
I know there is a lot of long faces here tonight. And it`s disappointing.
Sure. But, I believe in this country. I believe there is opportunity
around the next corner for all of us. So, I look forward to continuing to
fight with all of you for the things that we believe in. For the
conservative cause because those solutions of ours are the answer to the
problems that so many people are facing today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And up next, the man who beat Eric Cantor.
MELBER: We are back with a big breaking news night in politics. And we
are going to look now at the man whose name you have all been Googling
since the announcement, that David Brat, an economics professor rant off
has beaten Eric Cantor. At last check, end of March, Brat had $40,000 in
the bank for his race. Cantor had $2 million. And if you had trouble
finding information about him, you probably had even more trouble try to
find anything about the new democratic opponent.
Yesterday the district`s Democrat committee nominated Jack Trammel, a
professor at Randolph Macon College.
Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Karen Finney, "Washington Post" Dana
Milbank and MSNBC`s Krystal Ball.
Welcome to you all.
Karen what do you think of the new people who know and expected, to be big
players in the district.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST, DISRUPT: I think it is going to make for quite a
fun race particularly at the campus where you probably have students, you
know, taking up on both sides. I`m also I have I have to tell you, as I
was Googling quite honestly to try to figure out if the Democrats had even
put anybody up. I found a story, that yes, they just fight and hey, you
know what, let`s just go ahead and nominate somebody in case, Eric Cantor
So I`m glad that the Democrats actually have somebody in the race.
MELBER: Yes, Krystal, you having been a candidate around you. You were
saying you talk to people on the ground about that pick.
BALL: Yes. I spoke with someone in the district. I guess he, Jack
Trammell, literally decided about a week ago that he felt the urge. He
wanted to give it a go. What the heck, I will throw my name is the ring.
They nominated him over a conference call on Sunday night, I`m told.
So I mean, he really just got in there. And now, sudden his name is all
over the national headlines. I will say "the Washington Post" is reporting
that on rate my professor, which is a Web site where student can go and
rate their college professors, apparently Jack Trammell gets better ratings
than David Brat. So you know take that for what it is worth, early
MELBER: It is relevant.
You know, Dana, professor Trammell may hope his students would be pal be
his part of his base.
DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Entire base.
MELBER: And yet the fact the we are talking professors about people on
both sides here who have not had either a life in politics nor I would say
a life seeking sort of lucrative opportunities, and neither of whom are
expected to this so far race, a lot of money speaks to grassroots nature of
Eric Cantor, as we have been reporting tonight, spending $5 million versus
Brat`s $200,000. And now, the folks will be printed name on the ballot
based on the Virginia law. Cantor can`t have his name printed after losing
tonight under the sore loser law. The two folks are going to have their
name on the ballot here, professors, and what you might call regular folks.
MILBANK: This is true. Surprise, surprise.
You know, I mean, there is something about this that says you can`t
actually purchase an election. If you look at it, Cantor spent nearly $200
per vote in this election. And still didn`t win it.
And part of that its because, the turnout was so low. Look, always low in
primaries. But 65,000 people voted compared to general election, in the
same district, 380,000. So I mean, this is the side of a school board
election. So when you have turnout, that is low, extraordinary things can
happen. So now, you have two guys who basically got in the race, incase
lightning struck. And in fact, lightning struck, and so you have these two
guys who are supposed to be also around. So we are actually, one of them
is going to have to be the next congressman from the 7th district.
BALL: Unless something crazier happens.
MELBER: Well -- and Karen, speak to that. Is money still matters a great
deal in most races, just in incumbency matters. And yet, when you have
this kind of grassroots primary whereas leave in reporting, incumbency is
held against you and money can`t buy you love. And Eric Cantor had all the
money and all the attention and name ID, be clear didn`t have the love of
FINNEY: He didn`t have the love of the base. And I think, you know, one
of the things we should take away from this is, you know, this is why
redistricting mattered. This is why gerrymandering matters. This why, you
know, he was able -- Brat was able to run a one issue campaign, that did
real damage to Eric Cantor particularly in the last few weeks. And that`s
-- I say that to say when people think these, you know, primaries, and
these, you know, congressional races don`t matter, remember this race
because this is why it actually does matter.
I would imagine that, the phones are probably burning up to both campaigns
from Democratic and Republican operatives from both trying to, sign, sign
up their candidates. Because the I do think that now this race becomes
one. That we will be talking a lot more about. We will be watching more
closely. Even though I do still think this is likely the Republican seat.
BALL: Yes, a tough seat. I mean, for context, President Obama got about
42 percent there. Tim Kaine got about, I think, 45 percent. So, it is
definitely a Republican district. And Tim Kaine is someone who did well in
the state overall.
Mark Warner, who is an amazing candidate in Virginia did win the district.
But it is a very tough uphill sled for Democrats. I mean, one thing here
is both deep candidates as you are pointing out, very unknown. So who
knows how they are going to be on the campaign trail. And if one of them
is going to say something that will really alienate voters in the district,
there is a lot of volatility there. So we just don`t know how it will play
FINNEY: I would also just remind us that since both are professors, I
would imagine both campaign will be looking at their writings. And that is
a lot of times where you get yourself in trouble.
MELBER: BALL: Yes.
MELBER: Well, that`s a fair point. We are going to have more on the
breaking news and how it could be affecting other races. Our guest stays
with us as we look forward to 2014.
Stay with us.
MELBER: Looking at another important primary tonight.
Senator Tim Scott on the primary in South Carolina. 48-year-old freshman
won 90 percent of the vote. Senator Scott was appointed, of course, by
governor Nikki Haley after Republican Jim DeMint resigned from the Senate
in order to take a spot at the Heritage Foundation. This was the first
statewide election for Scott. He is only one of two African-American
senators and only black Republican senator.
Now stay with us for more on Eric Cantor`s unexpected loss straight ahead.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
MELBER: You are looking there at brand new footage of pro immigration
reform activists that were chanting tonight at Eric Cantor`s campaign
headquarters. Quite a scene.
And back with me to discuss is Dana Milbank, MSNBC`s Karen Finney and
Welcome to all of you.
Krystal, that scene there a little unexpected. We don`t know exactly when
those protesters decided to step up. But Eric Cantor, losing arguably in
part because at one time he had been perceived as too aligned with dream
BALL: Right. Well, and I don`t know if, you know, they realized in
advance, probably they thought that Eric Cantor was going to win and
planned to be there to, you know, to confront him over that. But I do
think if we look at the issue of immigration now, obviously, any near term
action is dead, and if it wasn`t already. And for future presidential
contenders, I think we are getting a preview of what the presidential
primary will look like in 2016. And for anyone who supported anything that
can be labeled quote-unquote "amnesty," it is going to be very, very ugly.
MELBER: Yes, Dana, you see that. The signals going out clear and wide
here to the house. So anyone who`ve wants any position of leadership or
influence, a talk radio community, strengthened tonight. Everything you
heard in politics about tea party politic thousands is on the wane. It is
going to go out the window. I`m not saying that is correct because of
complexities here. But that narrative will shift. And so often, it gives
people whiplash. What do you think people should make of this? And what
will Republicans make of it?
MILBANK: Don`t think it is correct. But I think it is almost a certainly
that they will overreact to that. And Krystal is right that it is history
for immigration reform and anything else. But what this also does is
compounds the longer term problem for the Republican party. They have lost
the only Jewish Republican, in fact, the only non-Christian Republican in
the entire Congress.
And on the issue of immigration which is already causing a real
demographic, catastrophe for the party in the long run. So you see them
becoming more white, more southern, more Christian, more conservative, and
more male. And that`s, just may not be a 2014 issue. But this is just
heading in absolutely the wrong direction for the party.
MELBER: Karen, what do you think of the notion and also who does it hurt?
It would seem this entire mood would fairly or not hurt Jeb Bush`s
FINNEY: Well, that`s absolutely right. And I think look the challenge
Cantor had exactly exemplifies the problem of the Republican party will
have in 2016, right? He was trying to have one message at home in his
district with those fliers that you were talking about earlier, and that
anti-amnesty message. And he was having a different -- trying to have a
different one in Washington which was a broader Republican party message.
But just for 2014, I would say I do think the tea party folks will
overreact. It will we be interesting to see after the election, what kind
of infighting we see in terms of the Republican conference, Republican
caucus on the house side in terms of leadership positions and sort of, you
know, who is the fight for power within the Republican caucus.
MELBER: And Krystal, some of that goes to what we mean when we say tea
party, do we mean, Dick army and freedom works in the organized folks or do
we simply mean the people who care more about certain issues in tone and
energy than they do about whether you have R by your name.
BALL: Yes. I think that is right. And what we have seen is the energy is
with the far right, whatever you want to call that. And those folks want a
certain, not only an ideological bent, but they want a certain energy. I
think what we have seen here is Republicans for the longest time when they
were opposing immigration reform, they labeled any efforts in that
And now Eric Cantor is paying the price for that because they tried to
redefine amnesty. They tried to say well, if we didn`t give them total
citizenship, then that wouldn`t be amnesty. Obviously, the base here is
not buying it.
MELBER: Right. Which Karen, that tracks perfectly with what we were
talking about earlier, and what seems like the long ago history of the
entire debate over whether a minority of tea party Republican should be
able to practice an economic suicide, right? That was a big debate where
they won things and then said it wasn`t good enough and then had to move
the goal post, but ultimately they did move the goal post on themselves and
FINNEY: Right. Well, and again, and I think to Krystal`s point and to
your point, that is their message coming home to roost, right? So they try
to go -- they went out way too hard on immigration messaging, not maybe
looking at a little something I like to call the census to see the way the
country was changing and similarly had to do that in a number of
negotiations you point out, Ari, with the tea partiers to try to say we
didn`t mean this, here`s what we meant, to get them back on board. So I
would think at a minimum they need to really rethink their messaging
strategy because they really painted themselves into the corner on a number
MELBER: Yes, that is well put. And look, as we look over this incredible
night in American politics, it is such a reminder, people often say
elections matter which is true. Activism also matters, turnout matters,
volunteering matters. This race, which is going to have size make impact
with shifted by a few thousand voters, very passionate voters, I should
mention, and voters with strong feelings, wherever they come down or
wherever you think they were right or wrong, an incredible night in
American politics, one will be tracking for awhile.
Dana Milbank, Karen Finney and Krystal Ball, thanks for joining our special
BALL: Thanks, Ari.
MILBANK: Thanks, Ari.
FINNEY: Thanks, Air.
MELBER: I am very happy to tell you that don`t need to go anywhere. We
have a very special, live edition of "All In with Chris Hayes" looking at
this night in politics, this unexpected upset of house majority leader,
Eric Cantor. That is straight ahead.
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