My colleague Matt Lewis buried the lede in his account of that after-action Cantordammerung robo-poll, which found that for a majority (52%) of Dave Brat voters the issue of “Cantor’s position on immigration reform” was either the “main reason” or “a significant part of the reason” for their vote. (Breitbart‘s Tony Lee did not bury this lede.)
Meanwhile a competing post-mortem poll from John McLaughlin — he’s the Cantor pollster who epically screwed up (he had Cantor 34 points ahead) — doesn’t really tell us much on the did-amnesty-kill Cantor issue. All McLaughlin asks voters is “Please tell me which issue you are most concerned with.” Understandably, more voters chose “Economy/Jobs” from the list than chose “Illegal Immigration.”** You’d have to almost be an immigration obsessive like me to answer otherwise. But that’s a different question from what motivated their vote. Voters may have sensibly thought, sure “economy/jobs” is more important (i.e. it’s what they are worried most about) but neither Cantor nor Brat could do that much about it — while a real difference had emerged on immigration, where voters were pissed off about Cantor’s squidgy donor-friendly pro-reform posturing and positioning. If McLaughlin’s post-mortem call sheet is right, however, he (unlike the robo-poll) never asks voters why they voted for Brat or Cantor.
That doesn’t stop my friend Mike Murphy from claiming that McLaughlin’s poll indicates Virginia voters mostly agreed with him on immigration — or, more precisely, that immigration was only a small factor in Cantor’s demise.*** And it doesn’t stop McLaughlin from, in his PowerPointish summary, giving an apparently false description of the question he asked. (McLaughlin says the question is “which one of the following issues is most important to you when deciding your vote for Congress” [E.A.] — a query that does not show up anywhere on his script.)
That misdirection may say more about McLaughlin’s good faith than about the vote on June 10. Or maybe he just let the intern handle both polls! He seems mostly concerned with establishing that lots of non-Republicans voted in the race, an issue where his poll is at odds with this one and with these analyses. I’ll let others sort that out. Even if (as McLaughlin would have it) the incumbent Majority Leader Cantor won, barely,**** a majority of previous Republican primary voters, only to actually lose the race to interloping new GOPs, “independents” and Democrats, that still tells you what you need to know about the toxicity of amnesty within the GOP.
**– Of course, “illegal immigration” isn’t the only issue involved in immigration reform — not even necessarily the main issue. There’s also the huge planned increase, embedded within “comprehensive” reform, of legal immigrant workers, which would arguably increase unemployment and drive down wages among workers already here. Winner Dave Brat raised exactly that issue — legal immigration — in a now famous ad pairing Cantor with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
***– McLaughlin also asks, in his post-mortem poll, if voters “approve or disapprove of comprehensive immigration reform” without ever defining that term, which renders the question almost meaningless. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is a poll-tested phrase designed to let voters see in it whatever they want. Many may say they approve of it because they think (erroneously) that it means tough border enforcement and stopping the flow of illegals. The meaninglessness is reinforced by McLaughlin’s finding that Brat did as well (actually, a bit better) among those who approved “comprehensive reform” compared with those who disapproved.
The other muddling factor is that Cantor, desperately, posed as an amnesty opponent (itself proof that immigration was a big issue). Arguably those who didn’t cite immigration as a “concern,” or who cited immigration and then voted for Cantor, were simply voters taken in by Cantor’s mailers. A vote for Cantor might have been just another vote against amnesty.
Murphy and I appear on Ricochet’s podcast here to discuss this issue (around 40 minutes in).
**** — Cantor won 52% to 48% “among voters who [had] voted in at least one Republican primary,” according to McLaughlin.
My friend Tim Noah’s vision of liberalism, summarized: ‘We get to put our dog shit in your can because it’s not really yours, you know.’ Appealing! Why do I worry that similar thinking informed the design of Obamacare?
“Illegal Aliens Receive Immediate Medical Care: Veterans Left to Die:” Sounds like a somewhat effective 30-second — or even 10 second — ad for November. And how is it inaccurate?