Pundits agree that there’s no single explanation for the surprising loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to challenger Dave Brat in the Republican primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Part of the explanation is that Cantor was distracted with Washington stuff and didn’t pay enough heed to his constituents down south; another part is that conservatives in his district were motivated by Brat’s position on immigration issues; another is that talk radio hosts jumped in on behalf of Brat.
And when several factors converge to force any particular outcome in the United States these days, there’s a term we all use to short-hand the conspiracy of happenstance:
NBC News’s Chuck Todd on MSNBC Tuesday night (1): “I think it, look, it’s a perfect storm of three things that I think you need to understand.”
NBC News’s Chuck Todd on MSNBC Tuesday night (2): “So think about that perfect storm.”
NBC News’s Chuck Todd on MSNBC Tuesday night (3): “Think about this race, though, [host] Chris [Hayes], and I apologize if this has been repeated. There was a perfect storm here for Mr. Brat.”
A Washington Times editorial: “Dave Brat, the professor from Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, just north of Richmond, could write a book on how to take down a giant with nothing but a homemade slingshot, and maybe he will. But Mr. Brat was himself caught up in a rare perfect storm, a credible candidate with a cause begging for someone to articulate it.”
A commentator on CNN Wednesday night: “And it became a national obsession because it was the perfect storm of media, 24-hour cable news, celebrity, murder, a beautiful woman, a young man with so much promise killed in such a personal way.” Ooops, that example comes from a special pegged to the 20th anniversary of the O.J. Simpson case. We’ll include it in the highlights anyway.
CNN’s Joe Johns, on Wednesday’s “Situation Room”: “Well, Wolf, we’re outside his headquarters here in a strip mall in the Richmond area. He had a lot of help from an incumbent who was seen as disconnected from his district, but Dave Brat, for his part, did push big tea party issues, including amnesty, including immigration. It all worked out for him in something like a perfect storm.”
CNN’s Gloria Borger on Wednesday’s “Situation Room”: “And this was an issue, Wolf, as you know, about immigration reform. He had expressed some modicum of support for part of the immigration reform, and that became an issue in this — in this campaign. It became kind of a perfect storm for him because also he’s a leader.”
CNN’s Gloria Borger on Wednesday’s “Wolf”: “But as a leader, he wanted to find a way to end the government shutdown, and that caused him a lot of problems within the tea party, as did his leadership position on trying to enact one part of immigration reform. So, you put it all together, it was a perfect storm for an insurgent.”
Fox News’s Andrea Tantaros on Wednesday’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” after hearing a breakdown of Cantor’s breakdown: “Sounds like, Mary, the perfect storm.”
The Huffington Post’s Jon Ward: “Cantor was never well liked, especially by conservatives, who considered him a fraud. His operation’s battle with Virginia’s grassroots — a move described by one senior Cantor aide as ‘Richmond hubris’ — created a perfect storm to propel one of the bigger upsets in American political life for some time.”
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews speaking on Wednesday with Republican strategist John Brabender:
BRABENDER: Yes. Well, look, there are a lot of angry people. What’s puzzling today, though, is, why did the anger erupt here when nobody saw it and it didn’t erupt in Kentucky, it didn’t erupt in South Carolina and all these other states? And I think you’re 100 percent right about the social network, though. I’m somebody who’s a media consultant. I do a lot of TV.
MATTHEWS: Is it the perfect storm?
BRABENDER: I don’t know. Everybody keeps trying to figure out what this is. Nobody predicted —
All those folks may have been channeling the thoughts of Brat campaign manager Zachary Werrell, who summed things up this way: “You have a very disliked incumbent, and you have a very likable candidate, and you tell the truth. And when your opponent spends millions of dollars being extremely negative and aggressive, that backfires — bad. It was kind of a perfect storm.” Campaign gurus may be excused for deploying clichés. In fact, they’re employed to deploy clichés.
Journalists, on the other hand, get paid at least in part to seek original ways of expressing stuff. And that entails avoidance of a term of meteorological circumstance popularized by author Sebastian Junger in a popular 1997 book. Lake Superior State University years ago put Chuck Todd’s term of the week on its banished list, complete with this still-resounding commentary: “Overused by the pundits on evening TV shows to mean just about any coincidence.”