Eric Cantor’s losing campaign spent $168,000…just on steakhouses.  That’s more than David Brat’s entire campaign.

This is not because David Brat is a vegetarian. We cannot even say that he is a spoiler Brat.

I’m not even certain Cantor’s stunning defeat sends a message about crony capitalism.   To be sure, Republican leaders play homage to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on immigration and other issues.  That’s partly because the same Beltway consultants on permanent sinecures with the official Republican apparatus also rotate in and out of contracts with Big Business.  It’s doesn’t matter to them who funds the red meat.

Dave Brat seems impressive in his philosophy, a kind of fusionist conservative in the grand tradition.  But the gloating right-wing radio show hosts who crusaded against Cantor do not win general elections. Cantor lost on account of hubris, an affliction not limited to establishment Republicans.   Plenty of populist Tea Party candidates — full of their self-importance and who are not ready for prime time (or even late night)— were embarrassments in past elections.

The story here, and for decades now, is that most Republican campaigns are mediocre.  Based on the changing macro-national mood and political cycles, Republicans sometimes win.  But most Republican polling is redundant and unimaginative, often inaccurate.  Direct mail has barely changed, with tired copy and worn graphics.  Television commercials have little in production value and lack punchy, clear copy.   They are typically overwritten.  It’s rare to see a candidate on camera, and almost unheard-of to see an emotional connection in a spot.

And there was the Cantor campaign’s heavy-handed negative ads characteristic of what Jameson Campaigne has called the “Beltway consultant class.”   When you try to gut a likable guy, your ad campaign backfires.  Imagine the stupidity of attacking Brat as a “liberal professor.”  Of course, there was blow-back.

How could Eric Cantor, a powerful incumbent be vulnerable, and not know it a month out?  I have never had an incumbent client blindsided, ever.

Indeed, Cantor’s final internal polling showed him up 34 points, but he lost by 10 points.  We are told the explanation is in  higher turnout, or in a crossover by Democrats.  That’s funny.   Usually, Republican pollsters say the turnout was “lower than expected.”    But that’s what polling is all about — you study the electorate and create turnout scenarios, and universe you define and sample you create,  and your voter propensity questions, combine to produce an accurate reading of the relevant electorate.  In this case, due diligence and imaginative methodology would have predicted both the actual turnout and the Democratic crossover.

Cantor’s enormous campaign spending actually hurt him.   It reinforced the alienation voters felt, because his gold-plated campaign budget featured the kind of glossy mailings and ads that reinforced the Goliath vs. David (Brat) paradigm.    It’s sort of like the Meg Whitman’s campaign — if the television ad doesn’t work, run more if it.

I recall when Clint Eastwood insisted he wanted to run for Mayor of Carmel, despite my survey showing him losing decisively.  I could not say, “Well, if you get better known…”  He was the only client I ever had with total name ID.  But the responses to open-end questions showed voters were skeptical he would devote time to being mayor.  “The more you spend, the more you will lose by,” I explained.   Instead, the only path toward victory, for Clint, was quality time invested in personal campaigning. And he did it and won handily.