And Dave Brat, the 52-year-old chairman of the Randolph-Macon College Department of Economics and Business in Ashland, Va., staged the huge upset without any help from major Tea Party organizations.
But this troublesome fact hasn't stopped certain so-called Tea Party groups from capitalizing on Brat's victory, declaring enthusiastically that Cantor’s defeat equals a Tea Party insurgency.
FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe wrote: “Congratulations to Dave Brat on his huge upset. The statement from the grassroots could not be any clearer. It doesn't matter what office you hold or how powerful you are. If you lose touch with activists on the ground, then your seat is in danger.”
“The grassroots are taking their seat back at the table and returning accountability to Washington. Votes on Capitol Hill will be heard back in the district,” he added. “We are proud to stand with Dave Brat in his election and look forward to working with him to reform Washington, D.C.”
FreedomWorks has so far backed two losing primary candidates in 2014 and switched its endorsement in the Nebraska primary to Ben Sasse two weeks before the primary election. FreedomWorks later took credit for Sasse's victory.
Separately, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest Tea Party groups in the nation, said in a statement: “Dave Brat won tonight in Virginia because he effectively harnessed the outrage at Washington over policies that have not been representative of the people …” She added on Twitter: Eric Cantor “lost his election - is the establishment dead? Way to go #teaparty activists in VA. You the grassroots won. #noamnesty won.”
Meanwhile, Club for Growth, one of several national groups that "aim to pick off Republicans who stray from strict party orthodoxy," as the Wall Street Journal puts it, refrained from involvement in Brat's campaign.
The Madison Project also weighed in on Brat's win, saying, “just a few short weeks ago, the Establishment was working the media over trying to shut the coffin on conservatives and the Tea Party.”
The group added: “But first Mississippi, and now Virginia's 7th show that the people, and not the political class will not accept a growing government dead-set on expanding their power, and passing policies that do nothing but line the pockets of special interests,” he added.
And although Brat’s shocking victory can certainly be attributed to the tireless work of grassroots activists in his district, it’s important to remember that the aforementioned outside Tea Party groups offered him zero support.
“Of the measly $4,805 in political expenditures against Cantor reported to the Federal Election Commission, none came from the big national tea party groups,” the Washington Post reported. “The bulk was spent by a newly formed super PAC called We Deserve Better PAC on an online ad that attacked Cantor as pro-amnesty.”
Meanwhile, outside groups spent nearly $366,000 on pro-Cantor ads.
Brat’s victory over the longtime Virginia congressman is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the self-identified Tea Party candidate spent a mere $100,000 on his campaign.
Cantor, on the other hand, burned through approximately $5 million trying to fend of his primary challenger, handing the House Majority Leader an obviously lopsided financial advantage. In fact, Cantor's office spent more money renting out steak houses for campaign events than Brat's office spent during the entire election cycle, according to FEC campaign finance data.
In short, conservative grassroots activists proved Tuesday that no entrenched politician is safe from a challenger with a strong, personalized ground game. That’s why Brat won. So-called Tea Party groups had nothing to do with Cantor’s defeat.
CORRECTION: Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement that some federal policies “have not been representative of the people." She was incorrectly quoted in the original version of this story. The Washington Examiner regrets the error.