House Majority Leader Eric Cantor faced a raucous crowd Saturday, including loud boos and heckles from Tea Party activists presumably supporting his long-shot primary opponent, professor Dave Brat.
Cantor’s speech occurred while the votes were being counted in Tea Party-backed Fred Gruber’s 685 to 636 vote victory over Linwood Cobb for the important job of district chairman of the 7th Congressional District Republican Committee.
Brat went first, slamming Cantor for refusing a debate and running negative ads that misrepresented his positions.
Former Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Jamie Radtke, who lost the 2012 Republican primary to George Allen, attended the event and said it was “visibly evident” that when Cantor took the stage immediately after Brat he was “seething mad.”
“When I sit here and I listen to Mr. Brat speak, I hear the inaccuracies,” Cantor began, as many in the crowd started booing.
“My family is here…” Cantor started again, as the booing increased in volume and energy.
“Listen,” Cantor lectured the crowd, “we are a country about free speech, so decency is also a part of this,” Cantor said to a chorus of more booing, mixed with cheers from some of his supporters.
“I hear the inaccuracies,” Cantor continued, “my wife and two of my kids are here, my mother and mother-in-law are here, they here the falsehoods, but of course I am tempted to fight fire with fire, but instead let me just leave you with some thoughts.”
He then proceeded to attack Brat.
“It is easy to sit in the rarified environs of academia in the ivory towers of a college campus with no accountablity and no consequence, when you throw stones at those of us who are working every day to make a difference.” Cantor began his criticisms of Brat, to which the crowd erupted in a further chorus of boos.
“When you throw stones…” Cantor began, again interrupted by boos.
Cantor paused, and tried again.
“When you throw stones at those of us who are working every day to make a difference,” he said.
Cantor then turned his attacks from Brat to President Obama.
“It is easy to say you are going to stand up to Obama and the left wing attack machine, but it is an entirely different thing to actually do it,” he said.
Then, Cantor’s supporters in the crowd began applauding.
Cantor spent the balance of his speech alternating between attacks on President Obama and on Brat. He accused Brat of being “MIA in the fight against Obamacare.”
The crowd responded with more heavy booing when Cantor attacked Brat for his service on an economic advisory board.
“While I was up fighting with our President,” Cantor said as the boos crescendoed, “my opponent served on an economic advisory board to liberal governor Tim Kaine.”
Cantor closed the speech by asking the members of the audience to vote on the wrong day.
“Please go vote May 10th, and let’s have a resounding victory for Virginia,” Cantor concluded.The primary is June 10.
Local Tea Party activists said their victory in the 7th Congressional District Republican Committee Chairman’s race as a sign that Tea Party-backed challenger Brat has momentum leading into election day.
Given Cantor’s huge financial advantage over Brat, a victory still seems highly unlikely. Reports filed by both campaigns with the Federal Election Commission showed that on March 31 Cantor had more than $1.9 million in cash-on-hand, while Brat had a mere $42,000.
But if the election results and audience response Saturday are any indication, Eric Cantor may not be sailing to victory in the June 10 primary as easily as he once thought.