WASHINGTON - The demise of the Tea Party has been greatly exaggerated.
The anti-establishment force within the GOP was strong enough Tuesday to oust House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a stunning upset by political newcomer and college professor Dave Brat.
Cantor, the second-most powerful House leader, is the highest-ranking Republican to lose renomination to a Tea Party challenger since the movement rose to prominence in 2010.
Brat, an economics professor at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Va., had made immigration reform a key issue in the race.
"Brat ran an aggressive campaign with strong Tea Party support and perhaps some voters felt that Cantor was not doing enough for those in his home district," said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, who resides in Cantor's district.
In a warning sign of Tea Party discontent in Cantor's Richmond-based district, activists booed and heckled Cantor during a party convention in May.
Cantor, 51, was first elected to Congress in 2001 and became the majority leader in 2011. Heralded as a rising GOP star, Cantor was widely viewed as the likeliest contender to become the next House speaker.
His loss also scrambles the GOP agenda. The majority leader is tasked with coordinating the House agenda, which is particularly sensitive in an election year. Cantor's ability to lead the House GOP Conference could be undermined by his Tuesday defeat.