As the war for control of the GOP rages on, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor finds himself in a game of “who is more conservative” in his bid for reelection this year, facing a Tea Party-endorsed candidate who has called him “not conservative enough.”
He is not alone. Many Republicans, including those like Cantor who at one time enjoyed support from the Tea Party factions are facing primary challenges from Tea Party candidates who accuse them of being too liberal. Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran is facing a tight run-off race on June 24 against Chris McDaniel, the Tea Party candidate who like Cantor’s opponent, has labeled Cochran as not conservative enough.
Cantor was booed at the local convention in Richmond, Virginia last month, a venue that he had expected to be his to control, but which was quickly taken over by the Tea Party supporters of his opponent Dave Brat, an economics professor with no political experience and only a little more than $200,000 in his campaign coffers.
“Listen, we are about a country of free speech, so decency is also a part of this,” Cantor told the crowd after being booed when he took the podium at the convention.
Cantor’s war chest is many times that of Brat and he has the support from many inside the Beltway groups including The American Chemistry Council, representing many blue chip companies and The American College of Radiology’s PAC, which has touted Cantor as being more capable of “ending business-as-usual in Washington.”
Brat has made immigration a major point in his campaign, repeatedly labeling Cantor as being “pro-amnesty” — a charge which Cantor has denied, saying in mailers that he has successfully blocked attempts by the Senate “to give illegal aliens amnesty.”
Of course, these claims are a complete turn around from his previous stance where he supported a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought into the country illegally by their parents as children. It does fit with the general stance of House Republicans who have rejected the Senate’s comprehensive reform bill in favor of a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.
In any case, Cantor faces the same conundrum as Mitt Romney did in 2012 along with other candidates around the country, who are forced to run far to the right in order to get the nomination, then being unable to come back enough toward the middle to win a general election as the war for control of the party rages on between the extremists of the Tea Party and the more traditional Republicans.