The upset victory of economics professor Dave Brat over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia Republican primary should be a message to lawmakers to get back in their districts and talk to their constituents, said Republican political strategist Ed Rollins.
Brat, with 55.5 percent of the vote, resoundingly defeated Cantor, who brought in 45.5 percent in Tuesday's election. Rollins said incumbents should not assume they'll win re-election handily.
"Get back home and pay attention to your constituents. Listen to them. Don't spend time in Washington. Get yourself back home. And take nothing for granted," Rollins, who served as 1984 national campaign director for former President Ronald Reagan, told "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday.
Rollins credited Cantor's position on immigration reform as a primary reason for his loss.
He said Cantor had "flirted back and forth" on the issue, which ended up mobilizing "a whole different group" of voters. Rollins predicted immigration reform, as well as other initiatives, would now be stalled in Congress.
"I think budget reform, tax reform, and, certainly immigration is dead at this point in time," he said.
Cantor's stance on the government shutdown also affected voters, Rollins suggested. He said many in the tea party wanted Republicans to continue the push during the shutdown.
"Cantor was one of the leaders when they shut the government down. He was the first one to capitulate. And they held him responsible for that.
"Many of the tea party and the grass roots wanted to continue that fight. They thought they had Obama on the defensive, and, obviously, Boehner and others didn't think that. So he got blamed for a lot of that," he said.
Establishment Republicans need to tap into the "energy" of the tea party, Rollins said, calling it a "very important part of the Republican party."
"They're the people that basically get out and vote, as they did yesterday. We need them if we're going to be viable," he said.
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