Regarding last week’s story on the primary defeat of Rep. Eric Cantor, “Tea Party Too Close For Jewish Comfort?” (June 20): In 2012, the Virginia U.S. Senate seat was vacated by retiring Democrat, Sen. Jim Webb. The GOP had an excellent opportunity to win back the seat. Eric Cantor opted to remain in Congress and the GOP nominated George Allen, who is famously remembered as the senator who made a racist remark in 2006; Allen was defeated in his re-election bid.
Although Cantor held his House seat in 2012, his playing-it-safe strategy cost his party a Senate seat. He had none of the baggage that Allen had, and could have ultimately had the opportunity to some day be a viable candidate for the presidency. Returning Virginia to the GOP would have made Cantor the darling of the GOP. (The GOP instead nominated the disgraced Allen, who ultimately was defeated by a slim 52-48 percent margin.)
As a result, in 2014, Virginia’s two senators and governor are Democrats. Cantor was banking on the hope that if he held his seat, he would have been the favorite to be House speaker after the November 2014 elections. It should be noted that the last House speaker to become president was James K. Polk, who was the speaker in 1839, a mere 175 years ago. If Cantor had won the 2012 Senate race, he would have been the most powerful Jewish leader in the country. But he ran not to lose, and in the process his timidity has subjected him to a humiliating defeat, and has done great damage to Jewish Republicans and other supporters of Israel and Jewish causes.