Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Henrico) generally doesn't like to engage with his political opposition on a local level. It is rare for him to even acknowledge those who run against him until it becomes absolutely imperative for him to do so.
2102 was a good example. Cantor's opponent, attorney C. Wayne Powell labored through a campaign where he attacked the incumbent at every turn with Cantor rarely returning fire. The powerful House Majority Leader surprised everyone when he agreed to a debate with Powell, which received quite a bit of attention but did little to impact the outcome.
Cantor engaged even less in 2010. He turned down an opportunity to debate and his detractors, so desperate to troll him into a confrontation ran into a scuffle with law enforcement officials outside of a coffee shop in Louisa.
2014 could be different. Not because of the general election possibilities, but because of the primary. Cantor has drawn a respected, albeit not very well known, challenger in Randolph Macon Professor David Brat. Brat is well spoken and good looking. He appears every bit of a serious threat to Cantor and has started to dust up some enthusiasm from hard core tea party conservatives dissatisfied with Cantor's traditional, more blue-blood brand of Republicanism.
"It's time we elect a conservative, not just a Republican, to represent us," Brat wrote on his campaign facebook page. "Vote for Dave Brat in the Republican Primary on June 10th."
Brat is also drumming up headlines on conservative blogs and national radio shows by offering up full throated attacks of his opponent in interviews. He appeared recently on former WRVA radio host Doc Thompson's show, which is part of Glen Beck's "The Blaze" Network. Thompson is a long time critic of Cantor going back to his WRVA days and gave Brat a big platform to fire salvos at Cantor.
But for all of Brat's bluster, it is hard to assess just how much of it is having an impact. Judging by Cantor's muted response, not much.
I asked Cantor to respond directly to the heavy handed approach from Brat and he responded without even mentioning Brat's name.
"The people of the 7th district of Virginia aren't waking up looking at the jockeying by one person or the other or which side is up or which is side is down," Cantor said. "What they are worried about frankly is how they are going to make it through the month and if there job is still going to be there."
Cantor's district is crafted to make him difficult to beat. A primary challenge could be even tougher given the lack of attention it will receive and the sprawling area Brat will need to cover. As with any political race money will be an issue. Brat has yet to file a financial disclosure report for his congressional campaign. Cantor had close to $2 million cash on hand at the end of 2013.
Engagement will be a key for Brat and a big way to make that happen would be with a debate. A possibility Cantor didn't rule out, but for the most part just ignored.
"We'll have to see that when the election season gets going," Cantor said. "Right now there is a lot of work to be done on behalf of the people who elect me and to see if we can focus on solutions."
The primary is set for June 10th a date that may seem a bit far off, but for a candidate hoping to unseat one of the most powerful men in Washington, will be here very quickly.
If the race is going to start- it needs to start soon.
Here is part of my interview with Rep. Cantor on his primary: