Since the stunning upset in Virginia’s 7th District on Tuesday, I’ve seen a few Facebook friends attempt to blame Democrats for Cantor’s surprise loss. As I noted on social media, I don’t believe that the statistics are there to confirm this suspicion. Now, Cantor’s chief consultant is going public blaming Democrat infiltration:
Outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) campaign manager is pinning the blame on Democrats for his shocking loss.
Longtime Cantor adviser Ray Allen, in his first interview since Cantor was stunned by little-known professor Dave Brat (R), told The Hill that he believed Cantor was a victim of meddling from Democrats who crossed over in the primary to vote against him.
“We had probably 15,000 card-carrying Democrats come into this primary. There’s just no way to anticipate something like that,” Allen tells The Hill.
What is Allen basing this off of? It has to do with turnout. 17,900 more voters chose to cast ballots in the Republican primary than did in 2012, where there was even a primary (albeit uncompetitive) for United States Senate. That would seem to give some credence to Allen’s Democrat infiltration theory, until you really start looking at the numbers.
The first problem, and it is the most glaring, is Cantor’s personal vote total. Cantor lost roughly 8,500 votes between 2012 and 2014. Regardless of any other numbers, Cantor lost enough Republican votes to erase Dave Brat’s margin of victory. That’s a red flag in and of itself.
Additionally, if Democrats drove Brat’s margin of victory, we would expect to see a few things in the data. We would expect to see increased turnout in counties and precincts where Democrats compose a higher percentage of the electorate. Unfortunately for Allen’s theory, we saw the exact opposite. As Scott Clement of the Washington Post points out:
If Democrats showed up in large numbers to vote against Cantor, turnout should have spiked highest from 2012 in Democratic-leaning areas, with Cantor seeing an especially large drop-off in support. In fact, turnout rose slightly more in counties that voted more heavily for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.
Cantor’s support dropped the most in Republican strongholds like Hanover, New Kent, Goochland and Culpeper. Those same counties saw the highest turnout spike compared to the 2012 race. This points explicitly to more Republicans showing up to oust the Majority Leader.
Finally, as Sara James points out, Brat was considerably more formidable than Cantor’s 2012 primary challenger. While $200,000 is a paltry sum compared to Cantor’s millions, it was enough to run a visible and credible grassroots campaign. Add in Cantor’s team dumping millions of dollars into informing voters that he had a real challenge, and it was a recipe for disaster.
To be clear, some Democrats did show up to oust Cantor on Tuesday. The data just doesn’t show these voters representing enough of the electorate to blame them for his loss. In my personal opinion, even a single Democrat voting in a Republican nominating contest is one too many, which is why I vigorously endorse party registration in Virginia. All of that being said, Cantor’s loss came at the hands of Republicans — Democrats just padded the margins.