early and awkward

The Best and Worst of David Brat’s ‘I Beat Eric Cantor’ Victory Lap

Seventh District US Congressional Republican candidate, David Brat, speaks during a press conference at the Captiol in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Brat challenged Congressman Eric Cantor's stand on immigration, claiming that Cantor backs amnesty. Cantor is getting pressured from both sides over immigration as his Republican primary election nears and the window for legislative action narrows. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Get used to this face. Photo: Steve Helber/Corbis

God-fearing economist David Brat met the press today after months of being ignored by the same media that now wants to shower him with national exposure. It went about as well as can be expected from a small-town Virginia college professor who managed to sneak to victory over the House majority leader with a 23-year-old campaign manager, instantly becoming the biggest political celebrity of the moment. As noted by Dave Weigel, Brat’s first appearance in the print edition of the New York Times was today — on the front page.

The Paper of Record also dusted off an interview with Brat from February. “I met with all of them,” he said of the tea-party groups at the time. “But it’s tough. Everybody just wants to see the polls, how much money you’ve raised. But they do not know what’s going on on the ground.” Oops, he was right.

Brat’s victory speech also got some airtime. He was so ecstatic that the married father of two said, “This is the happiest moment, obviously, of my life.” His family will forgive him, obviously, because he was probably overdosing on adrenaline. 

(“It’s mayhem,” said Zachary Werrell, the kid campaign manager and one of two paid Brat staffers, from the victory party. He was speaking on a Wal-Mart flip phone, “The cheapest one I could find.”)

His celebratory cheer, however, could not be tamed. Last night, Brat told Sean Hannity his win was “a miracle.” In an interview with Breitbart, Brat added, “It’s like my life dream on steroids, right? I got to share ideas I believe in on national TV. It’s just unbelievable.”

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd was less interested in high-fiving. Brat’s inexperience was obvious and awkward in a phone interview Wednesday morning as he squirmed away from every policy question tossed at him. “I’m a free-market guy,” he said when Todd asked about the minimum wage. “Our labor markets right now are already distorted from too many regulations.”

But should there be one? “Um, uh, uh, I-I-I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one,” said Brat.

Asked about arming the Syrian rebels, Brat dodged again. “Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects,” he said. “I’d love to go through all of this, but my mind is just uh … I love all the policy questions, I’m happy to do them more, but I just wanted to talk about the victory ahead, and I wanted to thank everybody that worked so hard on my campaign.”

Okay, sure, but just generally: interventionist or isolationist? Pause. “I think the press is in the habit of doing juxtapositions like that that don’t capture reality well,” said Brat. “I don’t have a pattern that fits every single incident.”

I love it,” he added of having to explain his beliefs, “and I’m happy to do it next time.” Now he at least knows what he needs to practice.

David Brat’s ‘I Beat Eric Cantor’ Victory Lap