House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is facing an attack from his right flank. Today is the closely watched Republican primary election in Virginia’s Seventh Congressional District. Economics professor and Tea Party challenger David Brat, who teaches at Randolph-Macon College near Richmond, has been blasting Cantor over a number of issues, including the budget. His latest attacks have focused on immigration.
Cantor, once a star in the Tea Party movement, has lost favor over the past few months. Since the debt ceiling and shutdown votes, in which he aligned himself with more conservative, Tea Party members of Congress, he's noticeably shifted to a more moderate position to the ire of his shrinking fan base.
Brat, on his website, has been pounding Cantor’s record of lax fiscal policy, quoting a CNS News article:
Since Congressman Cantor was elected in 2001, he has voted to raise the debt limit ten times. He also voted for the Ryan-Murray budget, which eliminated the spending caps imposed by the sequester. They were the only spending cuts Republicans achieved in the last five years.
Brat also slams Cantor on his immigration stance, which has been the major wedge issue of this campaign. On his website, Brat says:
Eric Cantor was the chief architect behind the "Kids Act" which would have provided amnesty to most illegal immigrants under the age of 30. Cantor cited immigration reform as a “top priority” in 2014.
Brat is not alone in his attacks on Cantor. Several major conservative players have come out swinging on Brat's behalf. One of the major names is conservative pundit Laura Ingraham. In an interview with Breitbart News, she blasted Cantor on immigration:
"Here's what we know," she told Breitbart News. "Anyone who's ever had any wiggle room or squishy language on the issue of immigration has always moved to the amnesty position eventually. If people say the following--well, you can't deport 11 million people; we have to pull these people out of the shadows; the system is broken; we have de facto amnesty."
In the same interview, Ingraham also noted her support for failed Republican candidate Frank Roche in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District, who was battling incumbent Renee Ellmers. As in the Cantor-Brat contest, immigration became a focal point in policy differences between the two camps.
For Cantor, however, his position on immigration lies somewhere in the middle. The Washington Times reports:
“Mr. Cantor is, indeed, somewhere in the middle on the issue," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. “It’s laughable to refer to him as an immigration hawk, but he’s not an ideologically committed immigration expansionist either,” Mr. Krikorian said.
In the end, however, will immigration dog the majority leader as his results come in? If you look at the North Carolina race, where Roche challenged Ellmers, you will see that, while vastly outspent, Roche still received 41 percent of the vote. Despite this, many voters in the Virginia Seventh continue not to see immigration as a priority—even moreso than in the Ellmers race.
In addition, Brat looks done in the polls. While the Daily Caller points out that Cantor is sitting at 52 percent in one of their polls—putting him under 50 percent with the margin of error (+/- 4 percent)—and many in his district oppose amnesty, immigration still remains one of the least important issues this cycle, as shown by the aforementioned Gallup poll.
Cantor, however, is not taking any chances. In response to the poll by the Daily Caller, he released an internal poll to the Washington Post, claiming he has a large 34-point lead over Brat.
While Cantor’s stance on immigration might slightly curve his poll numbers down, expect him to get through tonight’s primary.
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