How conservative media helped defeat Eric Cantor

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Politics,2014 Elections,Campaigns,PennAve,Rebecca Berg,Eric Cantor,Dave Brat

One day before Dave Brat trounced House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary race that stunned Washington, even Glenn Beck, a Brat supporter and the Grand Poobah of conservative media, had reason to doubt his chances.

“You are being outraised by 25 to one,” Beck said in an interview with Brat. “How are you even competitive in this race?”

“Well, I have faith in God,” Brat responded, paraphrasing Luke 18:27: “With man, many things are impossible. With God, all is possible.”

“And it’s not only possible,” Brat continued. “We closed the polls to within 10 percent as of a couple weeks ago, and then Laura Ingraham came to town, I’m on your show with Doc (Thompson), Mark Levin called us out, Ann Coulter — and now, we’re just soaring. I’m going to win.”

The next day, Brat won handily, walloping Cantor by 11 points — and while he called the victory “a miracle from God,” he indeed owed a share of his success to that roster of conservative media superstars.

Whereas Cantor had spent big bucks on media buys to boost his Image or attack Brat, Brat’s campaign, which spent just $200,000 for the entire race, didn’t have the resources to fight back.

Brat didn’t need it. While Cantor’s attack ads upped Brat’s name I.D., the conservative media embraced Brat and acted as his megaphone.

Backing Brat earlier and with more gusto than others was the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who also drew hundreds of supporters to campaign trail appearances with Brat.

"Who do you think Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi want to win this primary?" Ingraham said at a rally last week, reportedly attended by 500 people. "They want Eric Cantor to win.”

Brat also drew support from — and interviews with — a host of others, including Levin, The Blaze’s Thompson, and Coulter. Their attention on Brat did not alone swing the race, but lent credibility and a voice to a candidate who likely would have otherwise lacked both.

“They have the ability to supercharge a campaign and give you an opportunity,” said one Republican strategist with House campaign experience. “They act like the host for a virus — in order to spread, it has to have a host that can transmit it.”

Brat was also well-connected to Breitbart News through his hired consulting firm, Concentric Direct, led by John Pudner, the site’s former sports editor.

The firm worked with a pro-Brat PAC, We Deserve Better, run by Cole Muzio, a Concentric employee and Breitbart columnist, to develop a web ad -- which was then reported on by Breitbart. Concentric was also paid directly by Brat's campaign.

None of the $3,900 paid from We Deserve Better PAC to Concentric went to Breitbart, said Kurt Bardella, a spokesperson for the site, nor had Pudner ever received pay from the site.

“(Pudner) wasn’t getting a paycheck from Breitbart ,” Bardella said. “The guy wrote sports columns at Breitbart, but he left before the campaign.”

Bardella added, “I haven’t even heard of this guy until your query came across.”

Pudner wrote sports-related posts regularly for Breitbart during the campaign, the site shows, with his most recent published June 7.

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Rebecca Berg

Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner