Cantor Defeat Reminiscent of Talk Radio/ Conservative Pundit Influence During '07 GOP Immigration Bill Push

In response to Brat Wins in Virginia – Cantor Goes Down!:

Some may think that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss in Virginia is a win for the tea party, and for those local tea party activists in Richmond who supported George Mason economics professor David Brat that may very well be the case. However,  high profile conservatives like author Ann Coulter, radio’s Laura Ingraham, and radio’s Mark Levin scored another victory against pro-immigration reform Republicans on the hill seven years later.

Cantor, known for his support to create a bipartisan immigration reform bill, was likely torpedoed in his primary on Tuesday when these conservative media influences, combined with the power of the Drudge report’s images of unaccompanied underage illegal immigrants being dumped in the U.S.,  went full blast on the well financed Virginia GOP’er for his stance on immigration, particularly his position on the Dream Act.

In June of 2007, when the term “tea party” only referred to a polite gathering of individuals seated around a table of cups and saucers, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders announced they would bring back a “comprehensive” immigration bill to the floor before the Fourth of July recess that year. The bill, sought by then President George W. Bush along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, would have created the biggest changes in immigration law in 20 years.

Conservatives in the Senate were dead set against the bill and activists within the Republican Party, knowing very well that then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was more than willing to bring an immigration bill to the lower chamber’s floor, called out to the conservative grassroots in the media to help place pressure on the president and Republican members to kill the bill.  Ingraham, Levin, Sean Hannity, Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh among others went after Republicans for pushing the bill.   The Drudge report, also motivated numerous conservatives in the GOP base to call their members of Congress to stop the bill.   The New York Times reported:

Earlier in the day, trying to start the bill moving again in the Senate, Mr. Bush called for an immediate burst of $4.4 billion in spending to show that the government was committed to “securing this border once and for all.”

Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, described the call for $4.4 billion as “a good start.” But Mr. Isakson said Mr. Bush needed to do more to secure the border and to show that he was serious about enforcing immigration laws.

Comments by Republican senators on Thursday suggested that they were feeling the heat from conservative critics of the bill, who object to provisions offering legal status. The Republican whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, who supports the bill, said: “Talk radio is running America. We have to deal with that problem.”

At some point, Mr. Lott said, Senate Republican leaders may try to rein in “younger guys who are huffing and puffing against the bill.”

Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, welcomed the president’s support for more spending on border security, but said, “There’s no reason why we should be forced to tie amnesty to it.”

By July of 2007,  the immigration bill was dead on arrival. Mike Allen wrote at Politico:

Opposition from key talk radio and cable TV hosts helped kill the immigration bill in Congress, a study out today concludes.

“What listeners of the conservative talk radio media were hearing, in large part, was that the legislation itself was little more than an ‘amnesty bill’ for illegal immigrants, a phrase loaded with political baggage,” it says.

The study by the nonpartisan Project for Excellence in Journalism quantifies what White House and Capitol Hill phone lines and e-mail inboxes already indicated: Talk radio focused on the immigration debate more intensely than the mainstream media did from April to June.

Conservative hosts touched off a brushfire in the Republican base that President Bush and other party leaders were helpless to contain.

 GOP Party leaders, similar to other Republican members seven years ago, ignored the most active part of their base–the talk radio listening, web browsing, Fox News watching individuals who will act when they know their representatives are taking them for granted.  Is House Speaker John Boehner listening now?


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