Not taking the bait

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The View
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While such factors as immigration and Democratic crossover may have slightly padded the stunning Tuesday primary loss by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, some of the most careful analysis of the loss seems to point to something else: The feeling that Cantor had lost touch with his district.

There was the sense that he wasn’t back home much, that he was always on the tube or in DC, and that when he did show up he was surrounded by a heavily armed security detail. How would an average citizen get a word with him?

Compare that to standard practice in, say, Oregon, where elected officials routinely visit back home and are quite accessible when they do.

But then, the idea of rising a little too high in Washington and losing that local connection is not a strange concept in the Northwest. Decades ago, Oregon Representative Al Ullman had risen to a position of real power in the House only to be taken out back home when people saw he wasn’t getting back to the district very often. In 1994, people in eastern Washington had some of the same view – probably with less justification – about Tom Foley, then the House speaker. And he too lost.

As it happens, the current Republican representatives in each of those same districts, Cathy McMorris Rodgers in Washington and Greg Walden in Oregon, are in House leadership right now, albeit at a lower and less visible level than Foley – or Cantor. Either of them might be a plausible contender for Cantor’s leadership post, from which he is planning to resign this summer.

Indications are that they aren’t going for it. Walden hasn’t had a lot to say about the situation, and McMorris Rodgers seems to have swept aside the idea of what’s now looking like a crowded race for the number two job in the House.

They may be wise to take that attitude. Both have what look like secure seats at conditions stand. But sometimes the risk increases as you fly closer to the sun, and they may be well aware of that.

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