Dave Brat’s Out of Tune

I’ve written a number of columns on the 7th Congressional District race, and the possibility, if not likelihood, Rep. Dave Brat’s re-election bid is in trouble. But what if it’s all wrong?

I turned to Randolph-Macon political science professor Lauren Bell for a reality check.

Bell is a co-author of “Slingshot: The Defeat of Eric Cantor.” Bell and her colleagues David Meyer and Keith Gaddie wrote that we pundits missed a lot about Brat’s 2014 triumph over Cantor, then the House majority leader, allowing ourselves to be “mesmerized” by the data that showed there was no way — on paper — an unknown like Brat could overcome Cantor’s money and power.

I asked Bell what I might be missing about the 2018 race between Brat and the Democratic nominee, Abigail Spanberger.

Bell said 7th District voters “made it clear in 2014 that they want a member of Congress who is attentive to their interests,” and to get it, they were willing to “sacrifice ‘status’ (that is, Cantor was almost certain to be the next speaker of the House) for real representation.”

Would the GOP-leaning 7th District be willing to send Brat packing if it meant handing the House to the Democrats?

“It doesn’t seem that great a leap to me that some Republican voters in the 7th may even be willing to sacrifice party control of the House if it means they might have a chance at actually being able to see and talk with their representative every now and then,” Bell said.

Bell has heard the same anecdotes I have about the race, where “Republicans who voted for Brat but now plan to vote for Spanberger — or not at all — because they’ve found Brat less responsive than they thought he’d be.”

Brat has pulled back from his constituents. The Post’s Paul Schwartzman wrote Brat hasn’t held any town hall style meetings since 2017, preferring instead to hold “mobile office hours” where he meets with constituents “who requested it.”

In short, he’ll talk to voters — on his terms.

Continue reading here.