The "same old story" happened here when George McGovern went down more than 30 years ago, followed by a chapter titled "Tom Daschle." The losers had a common flaw, politically tragic, and it cost them their careers: they got "Washington-ized." They just plain lost touch with the folks that supported them and swept them into power in the first place. And as they all discovered the hard way, voters just don't like that. From the news backdrop involving the Cantor debacle I got the sense that he was spending too much time with the D.C. "swells" and not enough with the working stiffs in his district. He became one of "them" at the expense of being one of "us."
That disconnect led to a combo of complacency and overconfidence in the proposition that voters wouldn't turn out a federal rep with sizable seniority, which of course is the currency of power in Washington. Though still getting acquainted with South Dakota during the last days of the McGovern era, I recall hearing repeatedly from his supporters that South Dakota voters would only be hurting themselves by turning out such a powerful Senator who could steer so much in the way of federal largesse to their state. No doubt there was something to that, but McGovern's national stature came at the expense of his South Dakota-rooted persona, so out he went.
Same thing happened with Daschle in '04. I believe that he got complacent, relied on his political stature as one of the most powerful Senators in Congress, dropped his guard--and wham-o, in came Senator Thune. I still remember election day in '04, when my house got 4 "drops" from the Thune campaign vs. zero from Daschle's. From the story line coming out of Virginia, it sounds to me like Cantor's opponent, though outmatched when it came to money, had a gang of workers who more than made up for their dollar shortage with hustle and shoe leather.
Probably the best post-mortem in all this comes from SD Republican Senator John Thune himself, who knows something about taking out a heavily-favored, ultra-powerful incumbent. Said Thune yesterday: "The takeaway in all this obviously is that you've got to work very, very hard; never leave anything to chance. Never take anything for granted."
Even though I disdain the Tea Party and its "my way or the highway" legislative style--and couldn't be sorrier that a rational Republican like Eric Cantor got taken out by a T.P.'er, I admire the outcome. The politically condescending Cantor had it coming. I only hope that the guy who won this thing, Mr. Brat, will, if elected to office in the general next Fall, come to the realization that he represents a whole lot of people who aren't as politically marginalized as he and his supporters are. His job will be to represent and build, not harangue and dismantle.
Addendum (added on 6/13 @ 0935): A song dedication for Eric Cantor. Beat on the brat with a baseball bat.