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Eric Cantor Uses ‘Real Bullets’ in Primary Endorsement

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

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Kinzinger’s decisive victory, winning by 12 points when many observers predicted a far closer race, could also help soothe any hurt feelings among senior Members who were wary of a veteran lawmaker being targeted for defeat. The rationale goes that given how handily Kinzinger defeated Manzullo, those Members might simply see it as Cantor recognizing the reality that “it was time for Manzullo to retire,” one leadership aide said.

Some veteran lawmakers were left wondering Wednesday “if they may be next,” another GOP Member said.

The next likely GOP Member-vs.-Member primary is Aug. 14 in Florida, where another freshman lawmaker, Rep. Sandy Adams, is likely to face veteran Rep. John Mica. The Quayle-Schweikert race is Aug. 28. And Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry face off in Louisiana’s Nov. 6 nonpartisan primary.

Furthermore, although the issue of the Illinois primary was not broached in the Conference meeting this week, according to a source at the meeting, some predict it will surely be raised next week when Manzullo returns. How things play out from there will be more telling, sources said.

“This will undoubtedly cause some consternation,” a GOP strategist said. “From the rank-and-file Member’s perspective, leadership is not elected to be in the business of picking winning and losers within the Conference. From a leadership perspective, it also requires spending a lot of political capital, perhaps to an undesired effect.”

Adding another wrinkle is whether a new group, the Campaign for Primary Accountability, will continue to make its presence felt in these primaries. The super PAC spent a whopping $222,000 on Kinzinger’s behalf late in the race. The six-figure sum is more cash than the controversial group has spent in any other race this cycle.

The super PAC spent at least $75,000 on television ads and $18,000 on radio spots knocking Manzullo and pumping up Kinzinger, according to Federal Election Commission records. Online reports show it also unloaded at least $104,700 in direct mail on the race through postcards and other pieces.

CPA targets incumbents in primaries in safe districts, regardless of party affiliation, according to spokesman Curtis Ellis. Its most notable success was spending against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), who lost her primary earlier this month.

Abby Livingston and Shira Toeplitz contributed to this report.

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