A shell-shocked Eric Cantor delivered a rambling concession speech to tea party challenger Dave Brat Tuesday night, looking wide-eyed at a muted audience of supporters as he shrugged and said, “Obviously we came up short.”
The Republican House majority leader from Virginia was universally expected to win Tuesday’s primary election against Dave Brat, an insurgent candidate who ran a one-issue campaign accusing Cantor of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants as part of a broader immigration reform strategy.
But Cantor lost to Brat by a margin of around ten percentage points — a stunning defeat that suggests deep anti-immigration reform sentiment in Cantor’s central Virginia district and makes comprehensive immigration reform less likely to pass Congress.
“Look, obviously we came up short,” a dazed Cantor told supporters in a speech, with his wife Diana standing by his side barely holding back tears.
The majority leader went through the rounds, thanking his wife, family, team and supporters before launching into a somewhat aimless recap of his time in Congress.
“Serving as the 7th District congressman, and then having the privledge to be majority leader, has been one of the highest honors of my life,” Cantor declared with a disoriented smile. “And what I set out to do, and what the agenda that I have always said we’re about, is we wanna create a Virginia and an America that works for everybody.”
“And we need to focus our efforts — as conservative, as Republicans — on putting forth our conservative solutions,” he continued, “so that they can help solve the problems for some many working middle-class families that may not have the opportunities that we have.”
Cantor moved through his work on charter schools and research into diseases before ceding the floor.
“These are the kinds of things that I know we’re going to work on,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of long faces here tonight. And, um, 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 you for the things we all believe in, for the conservative cause,” Cantor asserted, “because those solutions of ours are the answer to the problems that so many people are facing today. Thank you all so very much.”
Cantor could possibly continue to run as an independent write-in candidate, but historically such runs turn out poorly for a politician already defeated in a primary.