Arrogance, Inattention Have a Cost

If you’re one of those idealists who continue to believe hard, thoughtful work can overcome money in politics, last week’s primary election in Virginia was good news for you. That’s true regardless of whether you’re a Republican, Democrat or independent.

You know the race I’m talking about: the Republican primary for a nominee for Congress from the Old Dominion’s 7th District (Richmond and north).

Incumbent Rep. Eric Cantor, who was majority leader in the House of Representatives, got his clock cleaned by upstart Dave Brat.

It has been pointed out Cantor outspent Brat by 25 to one. Actually, that doesn’t appear to be correct, based on Federal Election Commission records. It was more like 40 to one. Cantor’s last FEC report showed that for the reporting period that ended May 21, his campaign spent $4,867,298.

Brat’s total: $122,792.

Conventional wisdom is that being outspent that badly guarantees failure.

All sorts of explanations are being offered. One is that Cantor’s position on immigration reform turned off too many Republican voters.

But what happened, plainly and simply, was that no one was minding Cantor’s store. The nearly $5 million his campaign spent was used very, very badly.

It already has been pointed out Cantor’s people spent more at two steakhouses ($168,639) than Brat spent in total.

Had Cantor’s people used more of the money on an effective advertising campaign, they might have prevailed. But they didn’t. In fact, according to the FEC report, they seem to have ignored conventional media altogether.

Cantor’s campaign spent about $111,000 on mailings, $104,000 on website development and hosting and another $9,965 on Internet ads. No newspaper ads. No television. No radio (though political action groups technically independent of the campaign may have used those mediums).

Nearly all of Cantor’s money was frittered away on salaries, consultants, travel and events. At one point they spent $345 for balloons. Another day, they shelled out $115 for peanuts.

In other words, Cantor took Brat for granted, didn’t pay attention to his campaign – and paid the price.

That’s good news for inexperienced political mavericks – and a harsh lesson for veterans.

Myer can be reached at: