Eric Cantor's political career is dead and Wall Street is sad.
The primary defeat Tuesday night of House Majority Leader Cantor (R-Va.) at the hands of Tea Party rival David Brat means Wall Street is losing one of its best buddies, a champion water-carrier for finance. And Wall Street wasted no time moaning about it.
"I thought it was stunning," Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein told CNBC on Wednesday, referring to Cantor's loss. "Eric Cantor in my view was a sensible politician who dedicated himself to public service."
"Many lobbyists on K Street whose clients include major financial institutions consider Cantor a go to member in leadership on policy debates," wrote Politico's MJ Lee and Zachary Warmbrodt.
An anonymous Wall Streeter told Politico that Cantor was “one of the few remaining House Republicans who understood the complicated and nuanced issues facing the financial services community," which is PR-speak for champion water-carrying.
And he was well-paid for that water-carrying, raking in more than $1 million in 2013-2014 from the finance, insurance and real estate industries, according to OpenSecrets.org. Goldman Sachs alone accounted for $26,600 of that. OpenSecrets doesn't have similar data for Dave Brat, who barely raised any money anyway. Cantor reportedly spent more money on fancy steaks than Brat spent campaigning.
As evidence of the depth of Cantor's loyalty, he was deeply concerned about the "mobs" of Occupy Wall Street. He was "incensed" by a proposal earlier this year by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) that the biggest banks should be taxed on their assets, to help curb their "too big to fail" advantages. Who could possibly get "incensed" by such a thing, except for bankers or their mouthpieces?
Scary bank-taxer Camp is leaving Congress at the end of his current term. But he could have a kindred spirit in Brat, who campaigned hard against Cantor's fealty to Wall Street.
"All the investment banks up in New York and D.C. or whatever, those guys should've gone to jail," Brat told fellow Tea Partiers in one campaign speech. "Instead of going to jail, where did they go? They went onto Eric's Rolodex. That's where they all are, and they're sending him big checks." (h/t Matt Stoller)
This line got a HUGE laugh from Brat's Tea Party audience and probably helped him win the primary.
Does he mean it? If elected, will Brat get busy putting bankers in jail? We'll see. Even after his victory on Tuesday, though, he said, “the Republican Party has been paying too much attention to Wall Street and not enough to Main Street."
In any event, these are not the messages bankers like to hear.
The wailing and gnashing of teeth over Cantor's departure could be heard even in the stock market, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 1 percent Wednesday morning, partly because of the practical implications of Brat's victory: If it moves Republicans even more to the right, then it's likely we'll get more existential crises over stuff like the debt ceiling.
But there is also an emotional explanation, as Joshua Brown, "The Reformed Broker," tweeted:
The stock market doesn't like it when the candidates Big Business bought and paid for lose elections out of nowhere.
— Downtown Josh Brown (@ReformedBroker) June 11, 2014
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