Politics Expert Kondik: Voters Want Local, Not National, Leaders

Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 07:01 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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Virginians gave Eric Cantor his walking papers because they felt the House majority leader no longer represented them on a local level, says Kyle Kondik, director of communications at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"They wanted more of a local leader as opposed to a national one. A party leader can become nationalized in a way that the constituents don't like,'' Kondik told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"Tom Daschle was Senate minority leader and in 2004 lost the general election in South Dakota. [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid really almost lost in 2010. Mitch McConnell has a tough race in 2014.

"And then we have this really shocking upset of Eric Cantor,'' he said Wednesday.

Cantor suffered a double-digit loss against economics professor and tea party candidate Dave Brat, who spent just $200,000 on his campaign, a fraction of the millions Cantor splashed out in his bid to remain the representative of Virginia's 7th Congressional District.

Story continues below video.




He plans to leave his post as House majority leader next month and has thrown his support behind Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California.

"I think that sort of the conventional wisdom was always, 'Oh, well, it's really good to be a leader in Congress because you can bring it back to your district and you're a leading person in government,'' Kondik said.

"[But] I think voters increasingly just don't care about that. They want somebody who may be less of an establishment figure. Certainly, Dave Brat is that compared to Eric Cantor.

If Eric Cantor were not House majority leader and he was maybe just a back-bench member of Congress, he probably wouldn't have lost . . . I do think that his level of power and his level of prominence contributed to his loss.''

Cantor was too much "a creature of leadership" for his constituents, Kondik says.

"I think there were some people who reacted negatively to ending the [government] shutdown and raising the debt ceiling and that sort of thing,'' he said.

"The problem for being [in] leadership is that you've got to govern. Sometimes you have to do things in governing that maybe the more ideological parts of your party don't really like.

"That's just sort of the price you pay for it, and again, you put all of that stuff together and it adds up to what we saw last night.''

Ironically, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was considered vulnerable for being too moderate for some conservatives, easily beat six little-known GOP challengers.

"It would have been a different story if [Rep.] Trey Gowdy [ of South Carolina] or another prominent conservative had . . . decided to run against Graham,'' Kondik said.

"But that's not what happened. It ended up being a fairly motley crew of contenders . . .  None of them made any impact and they couldn't hold him under 50 [percent] to force a runoff,'' Kondik said.

"I think to say, "Oh, the establishment is doomed," [yet] I think Lindsey Graham, I would say, is one of the establishment Republicans in Washington and he did fine."

Kondik — a contributor to the elections forecasting website "Sabato's Crytsal Ball,'' run by the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato — said the odds of the GOP's reclaiming the Senate this fall are "pretty much a coin flip.''

"Our outlook is a range of four to eight seats [for the GOP],'' Kondik said.

"I think the Republicans are talking about how they have, like, 15 Democratic targets or something like that. I think a lot of those are probably unlikely,'' Kondik said.


See the "Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.

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