By Jim McConnell
And the local tea party favorite has less than a month to do it.
Republicans in the 7th District will go to the polls June 10 to select their nominee for November’s U.S. House of Representatives election.
Many of those voters are the same people who elected Cantor to Congress in 2000 and sent him back to Capitol Hill five more times.
Despite dissatisfaction from the party’s right wing, Cantor’s status as House majority leader and significant advantages in both fundraising and name recognition make it unlikely that a relative unknown such as Brat can unseat the powerful Republican.
But just in case, Cantor’s campaign team decided to try to poke a few holes in the challenger’s conservative credentials.
In an ad that began running regularly on the Fox News channel last month, Cantor labeled Brat “a liberal college professor” who was on former Gov. Tim Kaine’s Council of Economic Advisors “while Kaine tried to raise our taxes by over $1 billion.”
Asked about the ad last week, Brat described it as “idiotic” and thanked Cantor for the free advertising.
“He’s putting me on Fox News every night – I couldn’t pay for that kind of name recognition,” Brat said. “He thinks he can buy this election by forcing my negatives higher, but most people know it’s absurd, so it really doesn’t bother me.”
One of Brat’s supporters, retired Navy commander and Chesterfield resident Pete Greenwald, believes that Brat did “the honorable thing” by putting aside politics and agreeing to serve under both Kaine and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Greenwald also expressed disappointment in what he called Cantor’s attempt to exploit many conservatives’ inherent distrust of academia to “paint a false picture of Dave Brat.
“He’s appealing to uninformed voters who will just assume that, ‘Oh, he’s a college professor? He must be a liberal,’” Greenwald added.
Brat insists that he’s a free-market economist who is guided by the U.S. Constitution and is running on principles contained in the Virginia Republican Creed.
As to the question of his “liberalism,” Brat pointed to endorsements he’s received from a number of national conservative figures, including talk radio hosts Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham, and writer Ann Coulter.
“These are people not known for supporting liberals,” he said.
Brat contends that the negative TV spot is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Cantor voted to fund Obamacare, has consistently voted to increase the nation’s debt ceiling and supports a form of amnesty for undocumented immigrants.