Most observers (including me) were shocked not only that Dave Brat actually defeated Eric Cantor last Tuesday, but that he did so by such a wide margin. All we had heard of polls suggested that, at best, Brat was down by 12 points, with 9% of respondents undecided. In fairness, not everyone was surprised; TBE contributor Alexis Rose Bank had the most accurate analysis in any media, as far as I’m aware. [UPDATE: My friend Tom White at VARight.com educated me in the comments…he absolutely nailed the Brat victory ahead of time. Check it out here. Sorry I overlooked that, Tom…it’s been a busy 10 days or so!]
But a friend reminded me yesterday of the straw poll conducted by The Bull Elephant at Virginia’s 7th District GOP Convention in May. Although the straw poll of those hard core GOP activists was nowhere near accurate in terms of reflecting actual result percentages, it did show both Dave Brat and Ed Gillespie winning handily. Our straw poll gave Brat a much larger margin (+40%) than he had on election day (+11%), and gave Gillespie a smaller margin of victory (+11%) than he had at the Convention in Roanoke (+23%), but the poll actually showed who won both contests, and that many of the mainstream conservatives backing Gillespie were also backing Brat.
Why is this worth pointing out again? Well the WorstConsultantEver(TM) has been making noise about Cantor’s historic defeat being a result of Democrat participation in the election. “My guess is now looking at the precinct-by-precinct analysis, probably half this electorate wasn’t Republican,” he told The Hill. That’s just ridiculous. Clearly there were Democrats who participated, and even to an unprecedented extent, but it’s just not serious to contend their numbers were sufficient to change the outcome. Justin Higgins has the goods here.
What’s even more ridiculous is where Allen says, “There’s just no way to anticipate something like that,” when in fact it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that falsely calling your opponent in an OPEN primary a liberal Democrat is a sure-fire way to invite liberal Democrats to support him.
Our straw poll showing that even among people supporting Gillespie for the Senate nomination Brat was performing strongly was the first clue that, at the end of the day, rank-and-file Republicans were rejecting Cantor. It wasn’t just Tea Party types, or libertarians, or whatever. Ray Allen can make all the post hoc excuses he wants, but he cannot escape the fact that he and his strategies were repudiated by Republicans of all stripes.