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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/10/14

Guests: Larry Sabato, John Stanton, Julian Walker

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: This is kind of an exciting night. I`m sorry to have bobbled everything on your show. CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Well, it`s a long story. But thank you. MADDOW: Appreciate it. HAYES: Clearly, I thought Eric Cantor was going to lose, right? MADDOW: Well, thanks, man. And thanks to you at home for being with us. It is now 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time here in New York, we are continuing our coverage of what has been a truly startling development in the world of American politics. Some people are saying tonight it is the biggest political upset in their lifetimes. At this hour, we can report that Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, he has lost his seat in Congress, Congressman Cantor was widely expected to be next in line to be speaker of the House, there was much speculation as to the exact timing of when John Boehner would step down and give Eric Cantor the speaker job. Well, that speculation is now moot because Eric Cantor appears to be out of Congress all together. Polls closed at 7:00 Eastern tonight in the commonwealth of Virginia. In just a little less than an hour ago, this race was officially called by "The Associated Press" for Eric Cantor`s Tea Party challenger, an economist from Randolph-Macon College named Dave Brat. Eric Cantor has served in the House since 2001. He was first elected in the elections 2000, was sworn in, in 2001. He has been the House majority leader, the number two House Republican since Republicans took control of the House in 2011. Tonight, though, it does appear that Eric Cantor`s political career may be over. Really, honestly, nobody expected this result coming into tonight, but Eric Cantor did concede this race with shock on his face tonight, just a short time ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA: Thank you. Thank you. Obviously, we came up short. Serving as the seventh district congressman and then having the majority to be leader has been one of the highest honors of my life. I know there`s a lot of long faces tonight, and it`s disappointing, sure, but I believe in this country. I believe there`s opportunity around the next corner for all of us. So, I look forward to continuing to fight with all of us for the things that we believe in, for the conservative cause, because those solutions of ours are the answers to the problems so many of us are facing today. Thank you all, very, very much. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Eric Cantor represents a very conservative, very Republican district in Virginia, and aside from this little primary issue, the seat had been considered to be very safe heading into November at least. But in the closing weeks of this campaign, Eric Cantor started to fight increasingly hard against this insurgent campaign from a first-time candidate, a local economists professor named David Brat. Mr. Brat waged essentially a one-issue campaign against Eric Cantor, and his issue was immigration. He accused Eric Cantor of supporting immigration reform. He called it amnesty. He said Eric Cantor was supporting amnesty, he was helping President Obama get amnesty in Washington. And tonight, regardless of whether that was the reason or not, or other dynamics at work, Chuck Todd earlier this evening, highlighted the role of very low turnout maybe deciding this race tonight. Regardless, this was a one-issue campaign, and that one-issue campaign for Dave Brat has won. Eric Cantor spent somewhere in neighborhood of about a million bucks trying to hold on to his seat. For the sake of comparison, his challenger only raised about $200,000 for his whole campaign. Dave Brat just addressed his supporters a short time ago, in the seventh district in Virginia, saying this is the happiest moment of his life. But again, the big news tonight, the news that has landed like a political bombshell is that Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, the number two Republican in the House to John Boehner, he`s lost his seat in Congress. Just an amazing development. Joining us now is Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and host of "THE DAILY RUNDOWN" here on MSNBC. Chuck, as you surveyed the sort of national response to this, so far -- CHUCK TODD, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: Yes. MADDOW: -- who is declaring themselves the winner here? TODD: Well I think the winner are the people that are fighting a major immigration reform. That is the crowd that feels as if they made the loudest statement tonight by this win. And that`s what you got -- you know, there`s going to be a lot of this is a Tea Party victory. This is not like Mississippi Senate, Rachel. There weren`t major -- you know, there was this professional Tea Party crowd. There`s a difference. And there`s sometimes true grassroots movement. This guy tapped in to the immigration issue, which is a much more organic movement inside the Republican base. A little separate from the Tea Party world. Sometimes we all conflate it because anyone that`s not establishment gets labeled as the Tea Party. But this really was about immigration. You didn`t have professional groups in there and we had this perfect storm, as we`ve talked about earlier, with what is in the news at the moment, right? Dave Brat was basically -- what was his proof that Eric Cantor was, quote/unquote, "for amnesty." I had him on my show this morning. I think he used the word "amnesty" and "illegals" about every fourth word when I was interviewing him this morning. But what was his proof? Well, Eric was supporting the DREAM Act, his Republican version of the DREAM Act. Well, what`s that about? It`s about children brought across the border illegally, unaccompanied minors or minors, but people, it wasn`t their fault. Well, what`s the current crisis that the border is dealing? It`s been lighting up talk radio, Rachel. So, you had a sense of urgency to his message right at the perfect moment that you`d want to have it, if you were running this insurgent, truly more grassroots than I think that some of this other stuff gets, some times, we would call it`s grassroots. When you`re not spending $100,000, that`s grassroots campaign movement. MADDOW: How does the Republican candidate -- and how does, specifically the Republican leadership, thread these -- thread between these sort of competing imperatives, right? Because, obviously, in the seventh district, a single issue, somebody can unseat somebody like Eric Cantor who has been there for seven years, specifically on the issue immigration. But we`ve just also seen the latest couple of rounds of national polling on this issue that shows even Republican voters broadly like the idea of immigration reform. Republican voters even broadly won`t support against someone specifically because they supported immigration reform. It`s working in these microcosmic ways in these individual primaries. Doesn`t reflect in the national polling and numbers on these issues. And so, how does somebody like Cantor ever thread, ever do both of those things, win at home and help the party win nationally? TODD: Well, he couldn`t figure it out and he tried. I think, you know, there`s been -- it`s interesting, there`s some immigration reform advocates tonight that have e-mailed me said and, hey, Chuck, don`t declare immigration reform dead yet. Eric Cantor was terrible on it because he was secretly helping, but he didn`t know how to back it. He was pretending he was against it in the primary. So, he was, you know, being the armadillo, right? He was trying to have it both ways, where look at Lindsey Graham. He`s unapologetic about being for immigration reform and he`s doing fine tonight. I just -- look, I think that ultimately, again, you had everything come together. You had one candidate channeling that outrage, and mostly, Rachel, this is so concentrated in the rural south, and it really is in these gerrymandered, world southern places that I think you`re seeing where immigration has more of a bite. So, you`re asking, why doesn`t it show up in the national polls? Well, because the South still isn`t -- you know, that`s why it doesn`t show up in the national polls? If you look at it regionally, you`ll see the South is on a different place on immigration than pretty much anywhere else in the country, particularly the West and Northeast in particular. But you see it, it`s more acutely in the South. And we have been watching it this year in all these primaries, that particularly in the Southern primaries, immigration ends up being the most animating issue in order to at least talk to the base or have a conversation with the base of the Republican Party. MADDOW: Chuck, can I just also ask you about the way Eric Cantor has done his job as majority leader? Obviously, he`s got the job of trying to wrangle different factions within the Republican Party, decide what to put on the floor for a vote, decide who`s allowed to vote yes and who is allowed to vote no when it`s politically difficult for those members. How did he do in terms of managing factions within Congress? And did -- is that ability to sort of not just compromise, but to understand limitations and people`s -- what people needed political outs on, is that something that hurt him with this insurgency at home? TODD: Well, it certainly made it easy for Mr. Brat to say, this guy is the establishment. Look what he`s doing. You know, he`s a wheeler-dealer. He makes these things. And, obviously, as you pointed out, that was Eric Cantor`s job, and in many ways, he did a better job than anybody else in leadership in figuring out how to straddle the establishment insurgent conservative fence. You know, he had a better relationship for instance with the Republican Study Committee than John Boehner did. So, he was able to make those deals when necessary, sort of keep things at bay, particularly, I would argue, over the last 18 months. It was a difficult job for these guys in 2011 and 2012. You saw them as they sort of lick their wounds for losing the presidency in `12. You saw them become more cooperative with Eric Cantor and the Republican leadership specifically. But I think when it comes to Cantor specifically, he did touch with his own district a bit. We saw some hints to it about a month ago. He couldn`t get his candidate elected chairman of Henrico County seventh congressional district convention, right? MADDOW: That`s right. TODD: He lost to Dave Brat`s candidate. You know, that was like sign number one. But I -- there`s one reporter who said, you know, over the last year, Eric Cantor would have to send a press release locally to let people know he was coming to the district, he didn`t come at often because he was being a national leader. He was traveling the country, helping other raise money. He was doing the things that were both keeping him in power, but also racking up chips so that he could become the next speaker of the house. And make no mistake, John Boehner was -- the smart money was on Boehner retiring sometime next spring. Get the House Republicans reelected, get through December, and sometime in February or March, perhaps resign. And this was -- there was nobody else who was going to have the votes to topple Cantor. Now, this throws it wide open. And there is no -- unless Paul Ryan wants this thing, and he may be too close to the immigration issue at this point, but unless Paul Ryan wants it, there`s a huge vacuum now as to the future leadership of the House Republicans. MADDOW: For those of us who very much enjoy reporting on inter-Republican chaos, the world just got a -- (CROSSTALK) TODD: You got a lot -- I was just going to say, you don`t have to look hard for news stories over the next six months. MADDOW: That`s right. Amazing stuff. Chuck Todd, thank you, my friend. > TODD: All right, Rachel. MADDOW: NBC News political director, host of "THE DAILY RUNDOWN." All right. I want to bring in Larry Sabato. He`s director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Whenever anybody across thinks Virginia politics, we want to know what Larry Sabato is going to say to explain it. Professor, thanks very much for being with us tonight. LARRY SABATO, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA (via telephone): Sure, Rachel. MADDOW: Let me ask you about the seventh district and whether or not the national media should have seen this, should have seen this coming, whether it shouldn`t have been such a shock. It is such a conservative district that Eric Cantor should have been seen as more vulnerable than he was? SABATO: Well, Rachel, it`s a 57 percent Republican district, at least judging by the 2012 presidential election. So, it`s not overwhelmingly Republican. I think, if I could focus on something that Chuck pointed out -- naturally, we look for national issues like immigration to draw these strands together, whether it`s Mississippi senator or this Eric Cantor race, but Chuck pointed out something important. Eric Cantor not only lost touch with some of his district and because of his position and all of his national and international travel, but he actually had a machine. This was a real machine, and the Cantor machine in seventh, like all political machines over time steps on toes. When you step on enough toes and you make enough enemies, you create the conditions for a tremendous upset like this, which is for -- in Virginia, the biggest upset in primaries since 1966. MADDOW: In terms of machine politics, though, one of the great advantages of machine politics is supposed to be turnout. That you`ve got your tendrils, right, into so many of the institutions that you`re able to use the existing infrastructure in your congressional district or in your city or in your state to get your people to turn out even when people don`t particularly feel enthusiastic about you. Looking at the total, the vote total so far on this race, we`re watching the last precincts come in, it seems like this was a small turnout -- I mean, 35,000 something votes for David Brat. 28,000 something votes for Cantor. The turnout wasn`t there overall. Is that the mathematical key to why Eric Cantor didn`t win? SABATO: Well, obviously, it`s who did turn out. But, actually, Rachel in Virginia, for primary turnouts, that`s really impressive. MADDOW: Really? SABATO: That`s a high turnout. So, no, I don`t think this can be blamed on low turnout, it was the fact that David Brat`s people were really charged up. We did see evidence of that. Chuck mentioned the Henrico County convention where the chair, the longtime chairman of the seventh district who was a Cantor ally was tossed out on his ear, and Cantor himself was booed in front of his family, booed lustily behind many of the delegates. This is unheard of. You know, he had run that district like a personal preserve. I think he and his people fooled themselves into believing that they could do what you said. Use that machine that always worked, at least since first election in 2000, and generate enough to overcome the Brat forces, the anti-immigration forces, the Tea Party forces. I`ve got to say, though, this is -- in this state, as we have seen in Mississippi and a lot of other places, this is a party at war with itself. It really is at war with itself. I`m old enough to remember when the Democratic Party was at war with itself in the `60s and `70s. It reminds me very much of that. MADDOW: Larry, let me just ask you one question that seems maybe slightly beside the point at this point, but the Democrats for a long while, when it looked like Eric Cantor had a real tight hold on the seat, they didn`t necessarily say they were going to run somebody against Cantor in November, a couple days ago, they did pick somebody, Jack Trammell, who happens to be a professor at the same university where David Brat is a professor. Again, this is sort of beside the point in terms of national implications, but is David Brat, the dragon slayer now, going to be able to walk into the seat, or is this a fight between two unknown professors from the same college fighting it out in the general? SABATO: Well, Brat is certainly the favorite because it is a 57 percent Republican district, but it is amusing this small college, Randolph-Macon College, is going to have its own Congressman. And all I can say is I`m glad I`m not there because the faculty wars are bad enough when you don`t have two faculty members running against each other. MADDOW: Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics -- thank you so much for being with us tonight. I really appreciate it. SABATO: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Just an absolute political stunner tonight. One of the biggest upsets in modern American political history, in Virginia`s seventh congressional district, which you would never think was a national important thing, except for the fact that was the perch for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the last seven terms, and he, tonight, has lost his primary election to try to hold on to his seat in Congress. He`s lost to a Tea Party challenger named Dave Brat. There`s some question whether or not Mr. Cantor might be able to try to write -- to run a write-in campaign to try to hold on to his seat. Whether or not that`s even legally possible, Mr. Cantor in his concession tonight gave no impression that he was planning on doing something like that. Amazing. This is an OMG day in American politics. Much more to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has lost his seat in the House of Representatives tonight in an absolute stunner out of Virginia. We overuse the words "stunning" and "shocking" in political coverage, but tonight, we have earned both of those words. We`re going to have much more ahead on the story tonight, including what this does immediately to the Republican power structure in Washington, and that`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Political ads are forever. They are forever even when the candidates themselves wish they would go away. They`re an indelible record of what politicians say and promise and allege and screw up. So, for example, this year in Kentucky`s Senate race, Senator Mitch McConnell tried to disappear a screwed up ad where he showed by mistake players from North Carolina`s Duke University celebrating a championship instead of players from the University of Kentucky. Senator McConnell convinced YouTube to block just about the only record of the embarrassing mistake of an ad, but a Kentucky blogger named Joe Sanca (ph) yanked that clip out of the memory hole and now, Mitch McConnell is stuck with everybody being able to see the campaign ad that he tried to hide. Video is forever. In politics, it is the closest thing we have to a permanent record. The time you called some guy "macaca" when you got annoyed with him at a campaign event, that`s forever. That time you were just trying to flip pancakes, and -- whoops, there he is, that`s forever. That time you were Mitch McConnell running for Senate in Kentucky and you accidentally showed Duke celebrating their win instead of Kentucky, that`s forever. That time you were a congressional wig shot used to getting things your own way on everything in Washington, but you went home to your home district, for your local political convention, and they booed you and heckled you like crazy -- that`s all on tape. That`s forever. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CANTOR: When I sit here and I listen to Mr. Brat speak, I hear the inaccuracies. My families here -- (BOOING) CANTOR: We are about a country of free speech, so decency is also part of this. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Congressman -- incumbent Republican Congressman Eric Cantor last month, running to try to hold on to his congressional seat in the seventh district of Virginia. Eric Cantor won seven terms in a row in that district. He`s the House majority leader in line to become speaker after John Boehner, and we learned after the race he couldn`t go home to his local Republicans in his district without getting booed. While Congressman Cantor was working away at the top tiers of Republicans in Washington, this is what his challenger Dave Brat was telling the Tea Party crowd back home. This is a press conference that Dave Brat called on the doorstep of Congressman Cantor`s home district office in Virginia. And you`ll see from this clip, you`ll see that this was a true shoestring operation by Dave Brat. You`ll see that in part by the way they have to flip the camera around midstream so it will come out OK eventually when they post it on YouTube. It`s a little disorienting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVE BRAT (R-VA), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Eric Cantor`s promise of citizenship for illegal immigrants has opened the floodgates on our border. Eric Cantor has repeatedly over and over again promised citizenship for those who illegally enter our country. Mr. Cantor continues to demand citizenship for illegal immigrants and continues to erase our borders. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Heading into tonight`s primary, Brat had been blasting away at Congressman Eric Cantor over immigration, amnesty and immigration over and over again. And Eric Cantor responded to him, responded to this Tea Party challenge in his home district that was all about Eric Cantor being soft on immigrants. Eric Cantor, and I think this is important, he responded to this primary challenge in a two-track way. The first way was in his political ads, the video. The videotaped evidence of this campaign that Eric Cantor is smart enough to know would be his legacy forever. And in a way, it would be the legacy forever for the Republican Party as a whole since he is their majority leader in Congress. So, he got very risk-averse when it came to putting things on video. The ads Eric Cantor ran in this race were the most milquetoast things you have seen in your life. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CANTOR: Most new jobs today are created by small business, but too many in Washington want to raise their taxes. Let`s empower people, not government, and we`ll kick our economy into gear again. This is Eric Cantor and I approve this message. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the ad equivalent of pleated chinos. You see it and it just disappears immediately. I want good things, not bad things. Join me. You run for office, you pick where you`re going to take a risk. Eric Cantor chose not to take a risk on tape. His campaign videos and campaign ads, they were the political equivalent of have a nice day, right? I mean, look at me, I already am congressman. Don`t I look like a congressman? Don`t I kind of seem like I belong in Washington? Send me back there, no harm done. And that`s one track of how Eric Cantor tried to handle his Tea Party challenger. The Tea Party challenger had no money to run his own ads, but when Cantor was running them, that`s what they looked like. Tea Party challenger was killing Eric Cantor on immigration, press conference after press conference, even after they learned how to hold the iPhone the right way. And in response, Eric Cantor on tape, on video, he ran this race basically as a smiley faced emoticon that says nothing. That was one track. But then, here`s the other that Eric Cantor ran on simultaneously. Over the past couple of weeks, Eric Cantor has been mailing out these flyers in his district. He`s not putting for all eternity on TV and posting them on YouTube for the national media to chew over. He only did this stuff as direct mail. Eric Cantor just quietly, proverbially blowing up your mail box with the message that no matter what you might have heard, Eric Cantor is against immigration reform. Eric Cantor is torching immigration reform. Eric Cantor is burning immigration reform to the ground. Eric Cantor is rejecting President Obama`s latest immigration scheme. Quote, "Eric Cantor is the number one guy standing between them and the American people on immigration reform. Eric Cantor would like you to know that." And that has been the character of his campaign, at least as far as he mailed it to his constituents` mailboxes. He didn`t put it on the video where it might end up on the intertubes and on TVs where, I don`t know, Latinos or somebody might see it if they were noodling around wondering about the views that Republican Party leadership on immigration reform. No, what you might find online is, ah, he seems like a nice man, but the way he was actually trying to campaign for office at home was much more hard core -- immigration reform over my dead party. Well, polls closed in Virginia at 7:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. It was basically just over an hour later when we got the absolutely shocking news. Eric Cantor, House majority leader, seven-term incumbent lost his seat, lost the Republican nomination to that Tea Party challenger Dave Brat, who hit him over and over again, even though he had no money, hit him over and over again on the issue of immigration. Polls closed at 7:00, "A.P." called it basically an hour later. Theoretically, Mr. Cantor could maybe try to run, to try to keep the sit as a write-in, but in his concession speech tonight, he gave no indication he might try that. This seems like the end of the road for him. Eric Cantor`s fate as a member of Congress as a consequential story because he`s the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and they are in charge of the House of Representatives. But there`s this question of how we extrapolate from the story. I mean, it`s an important story in its own right, but watching this primary challenge unfold in the last few weeks, watching how Cantor was trying to publicly campaign one way and sort of secretly campaign in another, there`s been this real question as to whether this primary campaign in Eric Cantor`s home district should be seen as just its own thing, right? Was it possible that Eric Cantor going hard-core anti-immigration in these mailers and this campaign, that`s just what he needed to say and what he needed to look like for this primary, but we shouldn`t see it as indicative of a radical anti-immigration shift for the Republicans in Washington. Yes, maybe it was just its own thing and the politics on immigration in Washington are a separate thing. We get back to those normal politics on immigration after Eric Cantor comfortably defeated his primary challenger and went on to win the general election. That`s not how it worked out. And, you know, maybe it still is an open question. You know, the polls say nationally that immigration reform continues to be popular, even among Republicans, supporting immigration reform will at least not doom a politician`s chances at the polls, according to the public polling. But then, tonight happened and this political shocker in Virginia tonight legitimately is shocking. And nobody quite knows what it`s going to do to national politics, Republican or otherwise. Steve Kornacki, John Stanton, live reporting from Virginia, all ahead. Lots more to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CANTOR: My wife and two of my kids are here, my mother and mother-in-law here. They hear the falsehoods. But, of course, I`m tempted to fight fire with fire. But instead, let me just leave you with some thoughts. Thank you. You know, first of all, it is easy to sit in the rarefied environs of academia, in the ivory towers of a college campus with no accountability and no consequence. When you throw stones -- (BOOING) CANTOR: When you throw stones at those of us who are working every day to make a difference. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Congressman Eric Cantor getting heckled last month at a meeting of the Republican Party local organization in his home district. After Mr. Cantor was booed and heckled by the Republican activists from his own district, they took a vote for who would be the Republican Party chairman in his congressional district. Mr. Cantor already had his own guy in that position, and Eric Cantor loyalist, whose chair of the local Republican Party in Virginia`s seventh district. Mr. Cantor pulled out all the stops to keep his guy in the chairmanship. They sent out mailers to support the Eric Cantor guy. They apparently posted out personalized trinkets to party loyalists, according to "The Washington Post". On the day of the convention, Robert Costa at "The Post" reported that team Cantor, look at this, bought up all the conference rooms in the hotel where the convention was being held in order to deny their opponents any place to meet. They went so far as to provide daycare for the kids of their own Eric Cantor supporters. Mr. Cantor himself hosted a breakfast. Vote for my guy to be chairman of this local party. Eric Cantor did everything he could, but his guy lost that party chairmanship last month in Eric Cantor`s home district. Specifically, he lost to this Tea Party guy, who made a big show at a previous Tea Party event in Virginia by berating a picture of an empty chair that had a picture of an empty suit on it that was labeled Eric Cantor. This is the newly elected chairman of he Republican Party in Eric Cantor`s home district. He made a big show out of saying that he would only call him Mr. Cantor. He would not call him Representative Cantor because Eric Cantor, according to him, doesn`t really represent anyone. Empty chair. Maybe Eric Cantor knew then that tonight was coming, that a month later his Congressional career in all likelihood would be ended by a Tea Party challenger right there in his home district. Maybe we should have all known then when we heard him basically get booed off the podium, but we didn`t see it coming then. If we had, everybody`s jaws would not be hanging open all over Washington and all over the country right now. Joining us now is our friend John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for "BuzzFeed." John, thanks for being here. It`s nice to see you. JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: It`s good to see you. MADDOW: So, Eric Cantor, obviously, is not just a huge player in Congress. He`s the guy who runs the show on the Republican side. He makes the decisions about what they do and what they don`t as much as John Boehner does. What does this do to Republicans in Congress for him to have poofed unexpectedly tonight? STANTON: Yes, I think that`s the biggest news out of this thing, frankly, other than him losing, is that, you know, immigration was a big issue at the end of this thing. I`m not sure that he lost to immigration. I think it may have been he took it not that seriously to the last second. But what it has to do with immigration and any other kind of a bill that Barack Obama might be supporting or might be signed by Barack Obama I think will have long-term repercussions for the last couple years, because he`s no longer going to be able to marshal the troops to vote for spending bills potentially, certainly for things like immigration, any kind of major reforms to federal law or new policies that either side might want to do, because I think all of his members are going to look at his election and say, this is terrifying. We do not want to be Eric Cantor. If he can lose, the guy that everyone sort of looked to as one of the most politically acumen members of the House, they`re not going to want to do anything. Remember, he started the Young Guns with Kevin McCarthy which brought the Republicans back into power. So, I think all of those members are going to look at this and say if the guy who got me here can lose, why can`t I? MADDOW: In terms of what happened to the Republican leadership, most of the reporting and wondering is focused on how long John Boehner wants to stay speaker. When is he going to step down so Eric Cantor can get the job, that`s obviously moot at this point. But in terms of who gets Eric Cantor`s job, and who -- how the leadership gets rearranged, do you think the dynamics in Washington right now are something that -- something like we should be looking for somebody who is kind of like Eric Cantor to get that job or should we expect a more revolutionary change within the Republican party where they try to get somebody who is much more hard core, much more Tea Party, into the leadership to reflect this election result? STANTON: You know, I`ll be honest. I`m not positive. This actually could have bigger repercussions than that. If Eric Cantor is no longer there because his voters said no to him, I think that is going to embolden a lot of the conservatives in the party when they go into their leadership elections after the November general elections, and they`re going to say, maybe we don`t want John Boehner. Maybe we can in fact get rid of him. This maybe will send a signal. And I think all of leadership, if I was in leadership, if I was Kevin McCarthy, if I was John Boehner or anyone else that is associated with leadership, I`d be very worried, not just about who gets his job but about all of their jobs, because this is the kind of thing that is going to get those people riled up. MADDOW: John Stanton, Washington bureau chief for "BuzzFeed" -- John, thanks very much for being here. I appreciate it. It`s going to be a big night. STANTON: Any time. MADDOW: Appreciate it. All right. Just how big a deal is it that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat in a primary election? A Congressional leader not even making it to the general election? It appears there`s a new chapter in the history books tonight. We`ve got much more on this still to come. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`re back with the breaking news tonight that Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, the Republican majority leader in the House, has lost his primary race tonight to Tea Party challenger Dave Brat. Eric Cantor is out of Congress. But the specific part of the story tonight about a Tea Party challenger ousting a Republican incumbent in a primary, that ought to sound a little familiar. In the 2012 election, Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock defeated long-time incumbent Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican Senate primary in Indiana. That`s how Dick Lugar left the Senate. Two years before that, in 2010, Tea Party challengers defeated Republican incumbents in Utah. It was Mike Lee beating incumbent Senator Bob Bennett in Utah and "I am not a witch" Tea Partier Christine O`Donnell defeating Mike Castle in the primary race for the nomination for U.S. Senate in Delaware that year. So, this sort of thing has happened in recent years. This sort of thing. But not in any of those instances or any other instance that we could find has a challenger, Tea Party or otherwise, even come close to ousting a member of the leadership in Congress. These were the top three Republicans in Congress. Before about an hour ago, one of them was Eric Cantor. That is no longer the case. Based on what we know right now about this breaking news story, it seems unprecedented for a member of the leadership in Congress to lose their primary bid. I mean, there are modern historical precedents for leadership in Congress losing in the general election. They have been able to win their party`s nomination and they went on to lose to the other party in the general election. That`s still rare, but it has happened occasionally. It happened in 2004 to the Democratic leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle. Mr. Daschle had been a senator for South Dakota in 18 years, but he lost his seat to the Republican candidate in a surprising election upset in 2004. That was a big shock that year. Ten years before that, it was Tom Foley, Democratic Congressman from Washington state, and speaker of the House. He lost his seat in the general election in 1994, 1994 was a big landslide year for Republicans, but winning Tom Foley`s seat that year, ousting the sitting House speaker in his home district, that was perhaps the Republicans` single biggest victory in 1994, but it took somebody from the opposite party to do it. When Speaker Foley lost his seat in 2004, he became the first speaker in a century to be defeated for re-election. Before Tom Foley, you would have to go back to the `50s, 1952, when a Democratic leader in the Senate lost his seat to Barry Goldwater in the general election in Arizona. Members of the leadership in Congress losing their seats in the general election, losing their seats to the other party, that is a rare thing. But it is a thing for which we do have some modern examples in history. Also run of the mill incumbents losing their primary races. We have modern examples of that in recent years. But a leader in Congress? One of the top members of Congress, one of the most powerful leaders of the majority party in one chamber of Congress failing to win his party`s nomination for another term? What happened tonight seems to us so far in reading history an unprecedented thing, at least as far as we can tell in the midst of this news story. This is kind of the biggest thing like this that has happened at least in modern times. Joining us now, Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" here on MSNBC. Steve, thank you for coming in. I really appreciate it. STEVE KORNACKI, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Sure. MADDOW: You said this was the largest political upset in your political lifetime when we spoke earlier. Upon reflection, does it feel that way and how consequential is this going to be for what the Republican Party is and stands for? KORNACKI: Yes, in my lifetime, yes. Now, I was born in 1979, so that`s the era we`re talking about. For the closest parallel that I can come up with, sort of try to figure this out in the fly tonight, the closest parallel I can find would be 1974. In 1974, the dean of the United States House of Representatives, the longest serving representative in the entire House, a man named Emanuel Seller (ph) from New York, he`d been there 50 years -- excuse me, 1972 this was, I got the year wrong, he was elected in `22. In `72, he lost in a Democratic party. He was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He would have, had he not been upset by a woman named Liz Holtzman (ph) in the Democratic primary that year, he would have gone on to chair the Watergate hearings in the `70s. We know about Emanuel Seller and the Watergate hearings, but he lost in the primary because he was not for the equal rights amendment, sort of the women`s liberation in 1970s. He was against it. Liz Holtzman who was about 30 years old, shocked him in the primary, and the margin was 600 or 700 votes here in New York. That`s the closest parallel I can find. Other than that, when you talk about primaries and very senior members of Congress, I can`t think of anything. MADDOW: And even in that case, it`s the guy who`s poised to take a leadership role, that might make him in the future a well-known person. It is something like, but it`s not -- KORNACKI: The majority leader, right. MADDOW: Just intense. Well, how much should this be seen, and this is an inherently subjective question. How much should this be seen as some sort of referendum on the House leadership and overall fight of the Tea Party insurgents versus Republican establishment and how much should we see this as an Eric Cantor specific thing? KORNACKI: Yes. I mean, there`s three things. First of all, I think we have to stipulate. You know, there`s what happens in an election and then how the political world interprets what happens. There`s two things don`t have to sync up. It`s pretty clear the political world is going to interpret this as immigration, and that`s pretty clear I think immigration, you know, definitely plays a role here. MADDOW: How Brat against him. KORNACKI: Right. But I think there are two other things to look at here. One is the idea of entrenchment, the idea of Eric Cantor being a member of the leadership, being sort of -- the idea of sort the face of Washington in his district. You look at who has been felled by the Tea Party in the last couple years. These are people who are the creatures of the Potomac, the creatures of Washington. Dick Lugar, 36 years in the Senate. There`s an issue of, hey, when was the last time he was back in Indiana. Thad Cochran in Mississippi right now, one of the longest serving, 36 years. Mike Castle in Delaware, had been 20 years in the House before he went and run for the Senate. Bob Bennett in Utah, 18 years. So, I think there`s -- part of the Tea Party, sort of the energy in the Tea Party is to fight entrenchment, is to fight the idea people who go to Washington and get Potomac fever. I think that`s one thing that affected Cantor. The other thing, this I`m curious about. I don`t know about, but we might see reporting on in the next few days, there were Democrats in that district, including a Democrat who ran against Eric Cantor once, known as Ben Jones, former -- MADDOW: Cooter, from "Dukes of Hazzard". KORNACKI: Cooter from the "Dukes of Hazzard". So, he ran against Cantor about a decade ago, he is in that district now, and he tried to start a movement among Democrats saying it`s an open primary in Virginia. If you`re a Democrat, you can vote in the Republican primary. You want to make Republican Party`s life miserable, you want to make Eric Cantor`s life miserable, go vote for his opponent in this thing. I don`t know what degree that was an issue tonight, what degree that played a role. That`s something I`m curious about, too. MADDOW: That will be fascinating to watch. You were sitting when I was talking to Larry Sabato, and I was like, look how terrible those primary numbers are. That turnout is awful. He was like, actually, that`s pretty good. The numbers are pretty good and it will be worth watching to see how many of them are Democrats. KORNACKI: Because they don`t have primaries in Virginia. It`s always conventions and primaries are the tool, John Warner, the Republican senator for a long time, was going to lose a convention. His tool to save himself was the primary, and yet, that`s going to be the thing to take Eric Cantor out. MADDOW: Oh, it`s amazing. It`s just incredible night. All right. Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" -- Steve, thanks for being here. I appreciate it. KORNACKI: Sure. MADDOW: We`ve got still a lot more to come on this, including information about who the Democrat is who is going to be running against David Brat for what we thought was Eric Cantor`s congressional seat. We`ve got a live report from Virginia on this straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is great. The Tea Party Republican who beat Eric Cantor in tonight`s Virginia primary and cost Eric Cantor his seat in Congress, he`s an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. He`s going to be the Republican nominee for the congressional seat which Eric Cantor held for seven terms. Here`s the thing though, his Democratic opponent in November is also a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia. The Democrat`s name is Jack Trammell. He was just nominated for that spot on the November ballot by Virginia Democrats this weekend. Mr. Brat is an economics professor. Mr. Trammell is a sociology professor. He serves as the director of the honors program at Randolph-Macon. He`s also the author of a 2012 book on slavery in the old confederacy. And he is not a politician. But, very unexpectedly, Virginians in the seventh district are going to have a choice between the sociology professor and economics professor, both from the same school, both who they are likely to never have heard of ever, ever before tonight. Joining us is Julian Walker. He`s a political reporter for the "Virginian Pilot" newspaper. Mr. Walker, it`s nice to see you again. Thanks for coming back. Thanks for being here. JULIAN WALKER, VIRGINIAN PILOT (via telephone): Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So, I have to ask you about the seventh district. The lay of the land there, obviously Jack Trammell, the Democrat in the race, thought he would be running against Eric Cantor essentially as a sacrificial lamb. Should be expect this might be a more interesting general election race than it would have been before the upset in the primary? WALKER: Well, as you pointed out, it`s the rumble at Randy Mac, which is what Randolph-Macon is called here locally. This is still the 7th district. It`s still a heavily Republican district. The districts in Virginia, as are the districts in many other states, are, are gerrymandered. So, this is a Republican-centric district. So, it`s still an uphill climb for Mr. Trammel. But, fact that he is not running an incumbent, he`s running against an insurgent Tea Party candidate in Mr. Brat certainly makes this more of a wide open contest than it would have been, presumably would have been if the nominee has been now departing Majority Leader Eric Cantor. MADDOW: Julian, in terms of Mr. Brat and his wider significance, obviously, I said this earlier tonight. I don`t totally mean to be overstating it. He is a bit of a dragon slayer having taken out the House majority leader after being outspent 5-1 here. But to what extent has Mr. Brat in this candidacy been embraced by Tea Party factions or larger Republican interest groups, or conservative interest groups in Virginia? Has he been kind of a stand-alone guy, running a stand-alone campaign, or is he part of a larger movement that has embraced him against the Republican establishment? WALKER: He has been embraced by the Tea Party movement. What`s interesting about this is that up until today, every publicly available poll suggested that Dave Brat was going to draw 40 percent. And everybody was saying that in and of itself would be able to deny Eric Cantor from hitting the magical 60 percent threshold. All of a sudden, we have the stunning outcome, where not only that he -- he get over 40 percent. He toppled Eric Cantor by a significant margin. He has been embraced by the Tea Party. There were some signs that this might happen, although any body projecting this ahead of today is probably selling you some fool`s gold at this point. But there were some signs just about a month ago in Eric Cantor`s handpicked long time local party boss in the seventh district was knocked out at the local Republican convention for that district. And he was knocked out by a Tea Party advocated, a Tea Party activist. So, there were some signs of the discontent with the so-called establishment candidates embodied, personified by Eric Cantor, but this outcome left everybody flat-footed. MADDOW: Absolutely. The hindsight on this is crystal clear. But it always is. And, really, nobody saw this in foresight. Julian Walker, political reporter for "The Virginian Pilot" -- nice to have you back, Julian. Thanks very much for being with us. WALKER: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Back in just a minute with more on just a crazy upset night in high, high stakes American politics. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One Republican Party invention that has a question mark in its future is the Eric Cantor invention called the Young Guns. The Young Guns were supposed to represent the young, hip future of the Republican Party -- Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, and Eric Cantor, just radiating with youthful vigor. Pretty much since the beginning of his career in the House, Eric Cantor has been on the fast track to leadership in his party, won a second term in `03, and was immediately given the post of deputy Republican whip, which doesn`t sound like much, but it was a stepping stone. He then went on to become number two Republican in the House, majority leader. Eric Cantor for a time was on the short list for vice president in 2008, to run on John McCain`s ticket. Imagine the world had John McCain picked Eric Cantor instead of Sarah Palin. But he didn`t. And Eric Cantor as majority as majority was recently poised to succeed John Boehner, maybe soon, as speaker of the House. That expectation and that speculation, of course, come to an abrupt and sudden end tonight within the last few hours with the shocking news that Eric Cantor`s congressional career has been terminated by a heretofore unknown economics professor in his district, Tea Party candidate named Dave Brat. This is an OMG day in the news. Amazing turn of event tonight. We don`t have many days like this in American politics. We always say there`s a shocker around every corner. Tonight is a real one. Thanks for being with us tonight. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD." END THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END