In one of the most shocking primary upsets of all time, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, has lost to economics professor Dave Brat, a political unknown who was outspent 40-to-1. Cantor ran multiple attack ads against Brat, but Brat successfully made his outright hostility to immigration reform the centerpiece of the campaign, accusing Cantor of supporting "amnesty" and putting him on the defensive.
What makes this result even more stunning is that a pair of late polls showed Cantor with considerable leads: An independent survey from Vox Populi had him up 52-39, while Cantor's own internal from McLaughlin & Associates gave him an even wider 62-28 advantage. But as we noted, McLaughlin is one of the worst pollsters in the business, and boy, did they cement that reputation tonight.
So what happens next? Virginia law appears to forbid Cantor from pursuing an independent bid, though a write-in campaign seems possible. That would be an incredibly humiliating second act, though, and it's the one move that could throw this seat to the Democrats. Virginia's 7th District voted 57-42 for Mitt Romney, so without Cantor, Brat will be heavily favored against Democrat Jack Trammel, who, like Brat, is a professor at Randolph-Macon College.
Beyond that, Cantor's loss will reverberate throughout his party. Republicans had already deep-sixed any immigration legislation; now, they'll blast it into outer space and compete Hunger Games-style to see who can be the most anti-immigrant loudmouth of them all. Tea partiers everywhere will also crow, and undoubtedly the Beltway press will write tons of stories about their resurgence.
But an upset, however extraordinary, is still an upset, and just because Cantor lost doesn't mean other Republican incumbents are sure to follow. Still, though: Holy crap!
6:00 PM PT: There aren't enough "wows":