Former Ohio Congressman LaTourette Looks At GOP's Prospects After Cantor Loss

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This week Republicans are expected to pick a new Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. The need to do so follows the defeat of Virginia Republican Eric Cantor in last week's primary by a candidate to his right. The development stunned the political world - at least inside the Washington beltway - and was cause for celebration among Tea Party Republicans. So what does Cantor's surprise loss tell us about the direction of the GOP? To help us read the tea leaves, ideastream's Tony Ganzer traveled to Washington and spoke to former 14th District Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette. He has long warned of risks from the GOP being pushed to the right from within.

LaTourette: “I think this is an example that sits by itself, and the reason I say that: none of the what I call professional Tea Party groups—Club for Growth, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks—spent any time, money or resources in Eric Cantor’s race. This was really a home-grown rise of the tea party organizations in Virginia 07 that decided they were going to mobilize behind Professor Bret, and they did it in a very effective way.”

Ganzer: “Is there a chance that this will be hijacked, to use a loaded term, by other groups?”

LaTourette: “Well they already have. Success has many fathers, and failures, and orphan. So there are many folks in the blogosphere claiming credit for something they have nothing to do with.”

Ganzer: “A lot of the pundits right away said leaders, especially John Boehner, from more moderate states, may be on the way out or at least threatened. Do you think there is any credence to that?”

LaTourette: “Two things point against that. One is, Boehner in his primary in Ohio won walking away with over 70 percent. And the difference is that Tea Party challenge was really well-funded. They had 350-half million dollars, down in Ohio, where nothing was spent in Virginia 07. The other thing that sort of dictates against that, is Cantor’s replacement is going to be selected on Thursday the 19, and it looks like it will be Kevin McCarthy, his number two guy. If there was really a threat to the leadership from within the Congress you would have seen a much more spirited race for Majority Leader.”

Ganzer: “Do you think this is more about personality conflicts than any sort of ideological difference?”

LaTourette: “Well, no, I do think that the results show that people are not happy, but not necessarily with the Republican leadership. I’ve seen some Democrats saying this is good news for us, but I don’t think so. What it evidences is that the Republican base is still pretty motivated, whether Tea Party or otherwise, they’re going to show up in November, and Democrats historically don’t show up in mid-term elections, so I don’t think this bodes well for Democrats in 2014, and likewise I think Republicans better perk up for 2016 because if we continue this rightward trajectory I don’t know how we can cobble together a coalition of voters to elect a president. ”

Ganzer: “Looking back at the home-state Ohio, the primaries are over so it doesn’t look like this will directly affect the Republican candidates in Ohio, do you think it will affect any of the general races at all?”

LaTourette: “I don’t think so. Mid-term elections are historically about the past and it’s going to be a report card on the President, how the country is feeling about President Obama in the sixth year of his presidency. Presidential elections are about the future, so people are much more aspirational, so I don’t think this is going to have much consequence at all. It’s still going to be—despite Nancy Pelosi and others really hoping that this will mean something for them—I think it’s going to be a pretty good year for Republicans in November.”

Ganzer: “Are you watching the gubernatorial race in Ohio at all? What are your thoughts?”

LaTourette: “I do keep track of Kasich and Fitzgerald. It is John Kasich’s to lose for a variety of reasons. One, he’ll be better funded. Two…I had to smile when there was purportedly a poll that came out that showed within striking distance for administrator Fitzgerald, but nobody know who he his, and if you don’t have name recognition outside Cuyahoga County, Cuyahoga County is important, but it is equally important that people in Coshocton, and Circleville, and places like that know who the heck you are, too.”

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