For Democratic Virginians, the current House Majority Leader and repugnant Republican Eric Cantor is our most sought-after Great White Whale. He's feared, ferocious, and widely considered almost impossible to defeat.
And we would know better than anyone. After all, we've lost a lot of well-meaning and politically-courageous Ahabs to Cantor's gaping maw. His fundraising ability, name recognition, leadership position and popularity among mainstream conservative Republicans, combined with a long list of challengers with very little name recognition paint a portrait of a politician who plans to laugh his way back to the Congress, again and again, cycle after cycle.
But the tide may be turning.
According to an article published this week in the National Review, Cantor is about to be hit by a ton of Tea Party bricks in the form of Dave Brat, a member of the Governor's Board of Economists since 2006, and the chair of the economics and business department at Randolph-Macon. On January 9, Mr. Brat officially declared his candidacy for the House of Representatives.
This isn't just another far-right challenge on par with Floyd Bayne, either. In fact, according to Amanda Chase, Cantor's former political director, Brat may represent "the first time that Eric has had a credible opponent with a comparable education and background."
What's more, in the same National Review article, Brat boasts about a series of soon-to-be-announced endorsements and supporters that are, according to him, "As big as they get." So here's the $64,000 question: will someone as experienced and ideological as Mr. Brat be able to gain the monetary support of outside groups with pockets as bottomless as their feigned outrage? It doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility.
So let's take stock of what we have here: An Ayn Rand-inspired Tea Party activist who can appeal to dissatisfied Republicans and Libertarians; who has already reached out to well-connected supporters and who has received positive feedback; and who has experience and education on par with Eric Cantor.
Now, we can't be sure what the mid-term elections of 2014 will bring, just like we can't be sure about how well Brat's pitch will resonate with 7th District voters. But if Brat does indeed get the hefty support from influential politicians and organizations that he claims is just around the corner, would he consider running as a third-party candidate even if he fails to win the Republican nomination?
And this, my friends, is where we Democrats come in. Because if this scenario plays out, if Brat does indeed lose his party's nomination (which is likely), but decides he cannot let down his implied nationwide network of Tea Party backers and chooses instead to run outside of the Republican Party in the general, it creates a nifty wedge for an as-yet-unnamed Democrat to ride in on his or her white horse and save the day.
As I've said before, despite his seeming invulnerability, the truth is that Eric Cantor continues to win his seat by smaller and smaller margins each cycle, meaning he consistently gives up ground to his Democratic opponents every two years. Couple that with a well-funded, well-liked and well-connected third-party candidate, as Dave Brat could become, and you have a conceivable way in which a Democrat could finally overthrow the second most powerful individual in the House of Representatives.
But who would fill that heroic role? Which Democrat in the 7th District (if any) has the name recognition, the experience, the money, the fundraising base, the respect, the connections and the across-the-board adoration to take advantage of this best-of-all-possible-worlds scenario? Let's hope that whoever they are, they're busy pre-filing.
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