House GOP’s Eric Cantor takes a hard fall and now gets to be a political punch line

Eric Cantor had barely enough time to register his defeat before the Web got to work cracking jokes at his expense. One jokester, helpful or cruel depending on your perspective, took to the online classifieds to help Cantor with his next career steps.

It’s difficult for a guy in the middle of his career, after a decade in the same job, to pivot (just ask the long-term unemployed), so we’re sure the unsolicited assistance with his transition is appreciated.

The ad says: “Former U.S. Representative for Virginia’s 7th congressional district, serving since 2001, served as Minority Whip from 2009-2011 and Majority Leader from 2011 - June 10, 2014 when I was handed one of the most embarrassing losses in modern political history. Really regret opposing the extension of unemployment benefits now and calling the Tea Party ‘a tremendous positive influence’ in 2010.

“Will count votes (badly) for food.”

Rumor has it that Nancy Pelosi had a little impromptu celebration Tuesday night upon hearing the news of Cantor’s epic downfall. One might recall that she rebuffed his invitation once to sit together at the State of the Union address, akin on Capitol Hill to turning down a date to the prom.

No truth to the scurrilous hearsay that Pelosi got back to her office in the middle of the night, poured herself a glass of merlot and had a little fun at Cantor’s expense on the Internet . . .

The Loop was in touch with the real Craigslist poster who passed along responses to the ad.

There was the predictable:

“Tell Eric that McDonald’s is hiring.”

And (amazingly) one who thought Cantor really wrote it:

“Excellent sense of humor! God Bless you and your family as you go on from here. And much thanks for your service this past and most difficult decade.”

A high-steaks career

One fun statistic from the Cantor upset is that he spent nearly as much at D.C. steakhouses as his novice opponent spent on his entire campaign. Certainly, Cantor’s friends had their fair share of red meat on his dime, but wining and dining donors over a juicy steak in one of the premium, clubby restaurants is pretty standard fare for Washington.

Take BLT Steak, where a petite filet costs $42. It’s a block from K Street and a stone’s throw from the White House, and a popular choice for politicians hosting top-dollar fundraisers. It’s frequented more by Republicans such as Cantor, but it’s been known to host a Democrat or two. The fact that Cantor dined out on fancy meals with deep-pocketed pals is not, by itself, why he lost. But it is part of the larger problem that he may have been more interested in keeping the House’s Republican majority than in winning over his Virginia constituents.

In just this campaign cycle, 26 political committees — which file their spending reports electronically, so that doesn’t include most Senate campaigns — have hosted events at, or had a meal catered by, BLT. Cantor, through both his campaign and leadership PACs, is by far the restaurant’s best customer: It comes up among his top 10 expenditure recipients for his Every Republican Is Crucial leadership committee.

(Knowing what we know now, perhaps Eric Really Is Conservative would have been better a better expansion for the ERIC acronym?)

From cellar to Beyer

Cantor’s stunning loss hardly means his political or public career is over in Virginia.

For example, former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer trounced his opponents that night in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Rep. James P. Moran. Beyer won 45.8 percent of the vote, double that of the second-place finisher. He’s a shoo-in to win the heavily Democratic congressional district in the fall.

But Beyer, we recall, has also tasted defeat. After eight years as lieutenant governor, he ran for governor in 1997 and lost to Republican James S. Gilmore III, then Virginia’s attorney general, by virtually the same vote percentage as Cantor’s, 56 to 43. (Granted, he wasn’t drummed out by his own party.)

Beyer’s win is also good news for diplomats wondering if there’s life after the embassy. Beyer, it should be noted, was President Obama’s first ambassador to Switzerland. (Hmmm. A leg up on a House Foreign Affairs Committee seat?)

So if Jeb wins in 2016, Cantor could always put in for some fine foreign posting.

Steer clear of the bean soup?

And here’s a bit of Cantor relief.

A Hill source tells us that Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a celebrity fave, was spotted Wednesday afternoon lunching in the Senate Members Dining Room with weatherman Al Roker.

We’ve reached out to Booker’s office to ask what the two were talking about, other than, of course, the weather.

Roker’s Twitter feed confirmed that he was in fact on Capitol Hill (and so was Barbra Streisand, by the way). Like most Hill tourists, Roker seemed most taken by the Senate’s underground monorail. Roker captured a video of someone who appears to be Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) riding the train.

We don’t know much about Roker’s politics — a quick FEC search showed no campaign contributions — but when we think of Roker and Washington, we can’t help but recall one stomach-turning story of the TV personality’s visit to the White House (he pooped his pants).

He said of the incident: “I have to be very vigilant as to what I eat.”

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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