House Majority Leader Eric Cantor suffered one of the most stunning political upsets in history Tuesday night, at the hands of an unknown, underfunded challenger who called his win a “miracle.”
A new Public Policy Polling survey conducted in Cantor’s district Tuesday night provides some insight into the reasons for Cantor’s loss. The survey was conducted for the liberal group Americans United for Change, which supports immigration reform, and the questions described the immigration reform plans being debated in Congress in highly favourable terms.
But the poll suggests Cantor’s stance on immigration is overrated as a factor and, generally, that he had simply become deeply unpopular in his district.
Overall, only 30% of respondents from Cantor’s district approved of his job performance, a dangerous level for any incumbent. And 63% disapproved. Among Republicans, Cantor’s approval-to-disapproval split was just 43-49.
House Republican leadership is even more unpopular in Cantor’s district — just 26% of voters approve of it, while 67% disapprove. Among Republicans, the approval-to-disapproval split sits at 41-50.
“Cantor didn’t lose because of immigration,” PPP director Tom Jensen wrote in a memo accompanying the poll. “He lost because of the deep unpopularity of both himself personally and of the Republican House leadership.”
The results also suggest Cantor’s district supports the immigration reform plan that passed the Senate last year — though it was described in the poll in highly favourable terms that sometimes as pro-immigration reform talking points.
Among Republicans, 58% said it’s “very” important to fix the nation’s immigration system this year. And 41% of Republicans said they supported a plan that would make undocumented immigrants “pay a penalty, learn English, pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, and wait a minimum of 13 years before they can be eligible for citizenship.”
Brat made immigration a central theme of his campaign, attacking Cantor on the issue and pushing him further to the right. Toward the end of the campaign, Cantor sent out mailers boasting he had blocked “amnesty” legislation.
Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of the conservative website RedState, told Business Insider Tuesday night that while immigration was the “superficial issue” in the campaign, he had simply lost touch with his district.
“But underneath there is a lot of bad blood with conservatives who feel like he has repeatedly made them promises and betrayed them; constituent services that were run for Washington lobbyists, not actual citizens of the district; a very heavy handed staff that was hard for constituents to deal with and for conservatives to reason with; and he took his eye off the prize,” Erickson said.
“He was looking at the Speaker’s chair, not his own.”
In an email Tuesday night, Jensen told Business Insider that Cantor’s loss will put Republicans in a bind on immigration reform.
“Immigration reform isn’t going away, and if the Republicans continue to block it, Democrats will keep getting 70% plus of the Hispanic vote,” he said.
“It’s very hard for the GOP to win a Presidential election if that continues. Enough Republicans are going to have to just take the risk of primary backlash by voting for this to get it passed, or else the party will continue paying the price in November for years to come.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.