Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 14, 2016

Tuesday Primaries: Eric Cantor, Lindsey Graham Face Tepid Opposition

Cantor, the House Majority Leader, is on the primary ballot Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Lindsey Graham — two of  the most recognizable names in Congress — face primary challenges Tuesday from their right flank.

“I feel good,” Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said in a brief interview Thursday at the Capitol. “[We’re] running like we’re behind and got a lot of energy. Just got to run through the tape.”

Both Cantor and Graham are poised to defeat their party foes, but their margins will reveal insight into their political positions in their respective states.

In all likelihood, Cantor will defeat college professor David Brat in the GOP primary for Virginia’s 7th District. But if Brat gets within 10 points of Cantor, GOP operatives said it will be his “punishment” for meddling in local politics, including a few races for district party chairs.

“It’s been noisy, but a lot of time noise doesn’t translate to votes,” one GOP operative said of the anti-Cantor wing.

In the Palmetto State, Graham started the cycle as a top target for conservatives, thanks to his support for immigration overhaul and other bipartisan initiatives. But no competitive primary challenger emerged, and Graham will undoubtedly be the top vote recipient in the Republican primary.

Graham needs more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff with one of the handful of his lesser-known opponents. A Clemson University poll out last week showed the two-term senator with 49 percent.

Graham added, “I feel very good about my chances of breaking 50″ percent.

There are two other House primaries worth watching Tuesday night.

In Maine’s open 2nd District, state Sen. Emily Cain is expected to breeze by state Sen. Troy Jackson to earn the Democratic nomination. This is a race to replace Rep. Michael H. Michaud, who is running for governor in the Pine Tree State.

But the Republican primary in the 2nd District is a “coin-flip,” according to operatives from both sides of the aisle. The result will determine how competitive Republicans can be in their attempt to pick up this district, which President Barack Obama carried by a 9-point margin in 2012.

Former state Sen. Kevin Raye released a poll last year showing him with a large lead over former state Treasurer Bruce Poliquin. But Poliquin has since spent nearly $400,000 on his bid. There’s been no recent polling released from either GOP campaign — a sign the race has tightened, operatives said.

Democrats, including Cain, said they prefer to take on Poliquin.

Back in Virginia’s 8th District, a crowded field of Democrats is vying for the chance to succeed retiring Rep. James P. Moran in his Arlington-based district.

The race started with nearly a dozen Democratic hopefuls, but several dropped out of the race citing no path to victory.

Former Virginia Lt. Gov. Don Beyer is expected to handily defeat the six other Democrats still running in the contest.

Even in a crowded field, Beyer could run away with the race, thanks to his huge financial advantage and high level of familiarity with voters because of his successful chain of car dealerships in the district that bear the Beyer name.

Obama carried the 8th District with 68 percent in 2012, making the Democratic primary tantamount to the general election.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

  • voltaic

    There are times where I wish the lunatics in the tea party well and tonight is one of those times.

  • voltaic

    There are times where I wish the lunatics in the tea party well and tonight is one of those times.

  • voltaic

    There are times where I wish the lunatics in the tea party well and tonight is one of those times.

  • Layla

    Both men have and will continue to sell their constituents out in favor of the US Chamber and this President’s policies.

    Why would anybody want to keep them in office except the Chamber?

  • TellmenoLies

    Graham recognized his problem early and effectively removed 2 of his most serious threats, Trey Gowdy and Mick Mulvaney, by giving them some sort of insider DC quid pro quo, to make sure they stayed out of the primary. Now, lo and behold, both of these 2 formerly anti-amnesty Rep’s., are both all of a sudden pushing for amnesty. There is no daylight between DC parties anymore, they both hate the middle class in this country.

  • Dave Francis

    Eric Cantor turned on the U.S. taxpayer by
    potentially giving illegal aliens AMNESTY?

    is times like this we dread what President Obama and what elected instigators
    will do? When there is a catastrophe like the VA administration nightmare in Washington that is when we must
    be intensely vigilant because that is when we become most taken advantage of,
    carefully, methodically orchestrated behind closed doors. With the political
    limelight and the nation’s attention focused on Obamacare and the consequent
    shambles of other issues we must be ever more careful, wary and vigilant. It is
    times like these when bills and plans slip through quietly and get signed into
    law as with Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act).

    And such is the case with the amnesty bill. We must not and
    will not allow Congress to grant amnesty to more than 20 million illegal
    aliens. The cost is far too high for taxpayers. This administration under Obama
    has refused to enforce the border and thousands are now pouring through at an alarming
    rate. Patriots, our message must be heard all over Washington and the one way we
    know it will? Send every member of the House and Senate a loud message; call
    your Senators and House members and demand, not ask “Pretty Please” to not vote
    on any Immigration Reform, no Amnesty or Path to Citizenship. Top Democrat
    negotiator, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is insisting that Obama block all
    deportations if amnesty fails.

    Recently, the Obama administration announced it would stop deporting illegal
    aliens who entered the United States as children. So
    suddenly without warning we are seeing the appearance of crowds or children
    edged on by parents to gain admittance under this incompetent government that
    ignores the U.S. Constitution. Should Congress not agree to pass amnesty,
    Gutierrez wants that order for Amnesty extended to all 20 million illegal
    aliens. Rise up against the most anti-American president in the history of our
    nation. He has allowed 36,000 alcohol-abusing, drug using, sexual predators and
    other criminals to flood our backyards-and millions more are coming if Obama
    gets his way with amnesty. We just can’t let that happen or we will be living
    in a fear 24/7, paying more taxes just to pay for illegal aliens who feed off
    hardworking Americans. Obama says amnesty will make our communities safer—that
    is a plague, bring overpopulation in cities and shortages of drinking water

    Obama and the Democrats are pushing hard for amnesty. There is too much at risk
    for them politically. The repercussions of granting amnesty are devastating,
    yet Obama has the audacity to tell Americans: “It’s good for our economy.
    It’s good for our national security. It’s good for our people, and we should do
    it this year.” Yes! The only entities it’s good for is corporate and big
    business employers, Unions, faith groups and a whole bandwidth of greedy
    special interests. In truth, its all a big fat LIE. Any amnesty will be painful
    for the lower and middle class. Wages will be bottomed out, and benefits that
    are usually added to most full time work are likely to be eradicated. All it’s
    good for is VOTES and that is all this has ever been about. In 2012, Obama won
    71 percent of the Latino vote. Unknown numbers of individuals fraudulently
    voted with no penal repercussions; the Acorn group registering anybody with a
    pulse or not? But then any nefarious issue beginning with the “Fast and
    Furious” gun running scheme to Mexico, not one person ended
    up in handcuffs.

    Vote-grabbing is the very reason some hard right Republicans have turned on us.
    John McCain has said it about most blatantly: “We’ll pass the bill once
    primaries are over.” McCain campaigned on closing the borders and once he
    was reelected he flipped and became a champion of immigration reform. He wants
    it both ways. He can’t have it both ways. The National TEA PARTY is our ONLY
    savior, because you cannot trust the two majors, except a small few. The career
    politicians will give away anything and sign any bill that will keep paychecks
    coming in. Obama has his sights set on destroying America. We have seen him
    trample the Constitution and blatantly disregard the law time and again. Now he
    is at it again with his push to grant amnesty to millions of illegals. He
    already released more than 36,000 illegal aliens who were felons, awaiting
    deportation. Everything is at stake here. THE TEA PARTY LEADERS have split from
    the financial carrion, trying to breathe life back into the American dream. We
    cannot do that with freeloaders from other countries. They will abolish the IRS
    and restructure it, or offer a flat tax for everyone. Entering America without papers will
    become a felony, not the slap on the hand. All agencies of the government will
    be held accountable for criminal acts. Washington agencies will be reduced or

  • rmj142

    Perhaps Emily and Alexis should start writing a knitting column since its clear they don’t know shast from shunoola.

  • laker12

    Tepid? Fire this guy.

  • PapaJ

    Hey, nice call on Cantor, bye bye RINO

  • Dave K

    I guess the opposition was not so “tepid” after all!!

  • Layla

    No, they are not. Nice try, though.

  • TellmenoLies

    Your reply makes no sense, you should learn how to communicate…liberal education?

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