Dave Brat's Backers Pinch Selves After Huge Win

Tuesday, 10 Jun 2014 10:54 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Even Dave Brat's biggest backer didn't dare predict the challenger's extraordinary primary election victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Who could blame him? Until Tuesday night, the 49-year-old economics professor at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va., was merely a bold-talking political neophyte intent on becoming Cantor's "term limit" and fixing the country's outsized-and-growing deficit.

Brat's top strategist, John Pudner, of the Atlanta, Ga.-based political consulting firm Concentric Direct, told Politico he honestly never saw Brat's victory coming.

"I think we're all waiting to wake up to see if this really happened," he told Politico.

But now the long-shot victor's under-the-radar profile is about to get a lot larger.

A Michigan native, Brat has been at the 1,200-student college for 18 years, touting a strong economics background both from service in the Army and at the firm Arthur Andersen, Politico reports.

Graduating from Hope College in Holland, Mich., he earned his doctorate in economics at American University. Brat, a Catholic, had received his master's degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Yet when Brat launched his campaign in January, his background in economics fueled his fury at Cantor, whom he accused of having a "crony-capitalist mentality" that stubbornly took care of the corporate sector ahead of small businesses.

"On the conservative scorecard, on the free-market votes, he's doing everything wrong," Brat has said, ABC News reports.

'"He's not following what folks in his district want him to do, and it's hurting the country."

Calling himself a "free-market guy," Brat wants to take on Obamacare with a repeal of the law, and has vowed never to increase taxes and to stick to a five-year promise not to vote to increase the debt limit, according to ABC News.

He's also got an eye on the GOP leadership.

"I'd have to take a good look at what they're doing, but I support people who follow the Republican creed, and so, it doesn't look like the leadership is doing a good job on that right now," Brat told ABC News. "They're not free-market at all, right? They do not take free market seriously, and they're off on fiscal responsibility."

It never was personal for him, he told ABC News in a May interview.

"I'm just running on the founding principles that Adam Smith and free markets – they made us the greatest nation on the earth. All right? It's no mystery. Our rights, tradition, along with free markets and the Judeo-Christian tradition all together made us the greatest nation on the face of the earth. I think we're veering off-course a little bit there, and I want to get us back on that course that brought us to greatness."

Yet his message to Washington was stinging.

According to Politico, which cited an account in the Culpeper Star Exponent, Brat early on in his campaign suggested Washington politicians charged money to pass laws, and that to get onto the House Ethics Committee you'd have to fork over $150,000.

"These days everything is for sale in D.C," Brat said at the time, according to the newspaper.

As he closed in on primary day, however, Brat had a more direct approach about Cantor: he had to go.

"Years ago he had a good conservative track record, but now he's veered off," Brat told ABC News in his May interview. "If you go to Heritage and look at their score, I think he's at about a 53 right now. I mean, that's an F-minus."

If he knew he had a formidable challenge to beat the incumbent, he didn't let on.

"Most of these [primary] races don't kick in until about 30 days prior," he said. "Now everyone's looking, what's the race? It's an open primary and it's just Eric and I on the ticket."

"The race was once viewed as a longshot, [but] it's tightening now," Brat added. "We're well over double, triple what we had on the books just a month ago, and so now we're getting the national attention I always hoped."

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