This week’s stunning defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a Tea Party challenger in a Virginia Republican primary is reshuffling the deck for this year’s midterm elections. It also is shaking up Congress, because the No. 2 House Republican now says he will quit his leadership post next month.
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Americans who want Congress to address the country’s major issues in a timely, efficient fashion will not regret Mr. Cantor’s departure. He has consistently led efforts to obstruct the priorities of President Obama, Democratic lawmakers, and even Republicans who are amenable to bipartisan compromise.
Mr. Cantor’s strategy included his clear desire to succeed Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. That won’t happen now.
Mr. Cantor lost to David Brat, a little-known college economics professor. During the campaign, Mr. Brat criticized Mr. Cantor for seeking a compromise on immigration reform. That activism was greatly limited, but Mr. Cantor’s defeat likely kills the prospect of reform legislation this year, even though business interests that generally favor Republicans support it.
Mr. Brat’s victory may signal new life for the Tea Party movement; voters and donors elsewhere have generally rejected its extremism this year in favor of more conventional center-right candidates. Mr. Brat is the heavy favorite in his district’s general election in November.
Mr. Cantor, a seven-term incumbent with an estimated $8 million in campaign money, was defeated by a virtual unknown with a reported war chest of only $200,000. There may be some encouragement in the fact that district voters chose their candidate on the basis of issues rather than campaign spending.