Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford On Last Night's Runoffs

by Robert Coon, Blake Rutherford and Lance Turner  on Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014 8:28 am  

John Burris, one of the architects of the private option, defeated in the GOP runoff election for a state Senate seat. (Photo by Arkansas Times)

But he'll have to raise much more money than he has on-hand and spend it smartly in ways previous campaigns haven't had to do. As we saw with the Eric Cantor race, your campaign can kill you. Right now, Steel's greatest challenges are ones he maintains control of. It is both an enviable and difficult position to be in.

Cantor's Historic Defeat in Virginia

Lance: Speaking of Eric Cantor ... wow. What's your gut reaction to his unprecedented defeat? What are the lessons for Arkansas politics?

Robert: The Cantor defeat was definitely unexpected for just about everyone. I'm certainly not an expert on Virginia politics, but there are a few considerations worth noting.  

First, it's been reported that following 2010 redistricting, Cantor's district added some new, conservative areas that he previously hadn't represented. That served to make his district more GOP leaning in general elections, but perhaps "too conservative" for him in this primary. Perhaps Cantor didn't take the time or make the effort to engage that new constituency as he should have.  

Also, there's unquestionably some hostility against "business as usual" in GOP primary races across the country (the runoff election between U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and State Sen. Chris McDaniel is another example), and that, combined with changes in the district, are ultimately what did Cantor in.

For Arkansas, I think the Cantor defeat is a good reminder that whether it's a congressional seat or a state legislative seat, the importance of regular and substantive engagement with constituents back home cannot be overstated. There will be policy and political disagreements from time to time, but taking the seat for granted and being out of touch - or out of contact - with the people in the district makes elected officials much more vulnerable to a challenge from within their party.

Blake: It is an historic defeat, which has the media clamoring for what happened. But did anyone seriously believe Cantor would be beaten, much less by 12 points? Sounds like really poor campaign management, predominantly. 

Immigration was a central issue in that campaign, and so Cantor's defeat is illustrative of just how difficult that issue is for moderate and pro-business Republicans in a primary.

So in that way, I think it foreshadows the trouble the GOP will have with it in 2016, further complicating their path to the presidency.

Lance: And with that, I'll let you guys get back to your day jobs. Thanks for weighing in. And we'll see you again every Wednesday as the campaigns continue.

(Robert Coon is a partner at Impact Management Group, a public relations, public opinion and public affairs firm in Little Rock and Baton Rouge, La. You can follow him on Twitter at RobertWCoon. His column appears every other Wednesday in the weekly Government & Politics e-newsletter. You can subscribe for free here.)

(Blake Rutherford is vice president of The McLarty Companies and previously was chief of staff to the Arkansas attorney general. You can follow him on Twitter at BlakeRutherford. His column appears every other Wednesday in the weekly Government & Politics e-newsletter. You can subscribe for free here.)



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