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Graham and Cantor

Posted: June 12, 2014 12:08 p.m.
Updated: June 13, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Politics is often surprising, and trends don’t always develop the way the so-called political pundits predict. Nowhere was that more evident Tuesday than in South Carolina and Virginia. Sen. Lindsey Graham swept to a resounding Palmetto State victory over a host of primary opponents, winning the nomination without having to endure a run-off, while in Virginia, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor went down to a surprising defeat, knocked off by a little-known, under-financed Tea Party candidate.

Political analysts were scrambling for answers following the day’s voting, with the most plausible one being that Graham had maintained contact with his constituents while Cantor hadn’t. But whatever the reason, Cantor’s defeat leaves moderate Republicans in a more difficult place. Those who are willing to compromise, like Graham, are going to face increasing noise from hard-right GOP officials who will be emboldened by Cantor’s defeat.

We’ve never thought extremism on either side -- and, of course, there are lots of hard-left Democrats in Congress -- is a virtue. American politics is based on the art of compromise, which is an increasingly fragile thing these days. It’s unwise to read too much into the outcome of a single House district, especially where in other places, far-right influence has been waning. But in trying to take control of the Senate this fall, and reaching for the White House in 2016, Republicans are probably going to find their job a bit tougher.

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