The polit­ical press today is engorged with analysis that attempts to explain why House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost the Repub­lican pri­mary in his Vir­ginia dis­trict to a Tea Party chal­lenger on Tuesday. But given that the pun­dits were as sur­prised as everyone else, there is no par­tic­ular reason to think they are capable of telling us why it happened.

Nearly a month ago, though, Jenna Portnoy and Robert Costa of the Wash­ington Post saw it coming. In an article head­lined “Eric Cantor’s tea party oppo­nent in Va. pri­mary may be picking up momentum,” the two wrote that Cantor’s oppo­nent, David Brat, had ener­gized the right-​​wing base of the party. Cantor, Brat’s sup­porters believed, had been insuf­fi­ciently hard­line on issues such as immi­gra­tion reform, the debt ceiling and the Afford­able Care Act.

Weeks before the voting, Portnoy and Costa also put their finger on a Cantor tactic that seems to have back­fired: going after Brat so hard that he improved his unknown opponent’s name recog­ni­tion and gave him legit­i­macy. They quote Brat as saying, “I’m a rookie, he’s never gone neg­a­tive, and he’s putting my face and name on Fox News, which is unheard of. If they’re doing that, that means their internal polling shows that I’m not at zero. I’m a risk of some sort.”

Read the article at WGBH →