Defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) hit the Sunday news programs this morning in a curt manner and seemed to lay some blame for his loss on radio talk show host Laura Ingraham cheapening the debate.

Laura took it in stride.

But is the Republican Party serious about finding answers following the Cantor defeat? Grassroots Republicans and conservatives still express doubt if the party has even learned the right lessons from its 2012 loss.

Salena Zito tries to help the Republican Party establishment today with peeling back the onion on what is going on in America. Zito is correct — there is a rise of populism and Dave Brat tapped into that vein during his campaign against Cantor:

When Eric Cantor lost his primary race Tuesday, it wasn’t because he wasn’t conservative enough for his base. It wasn’t because of the Republicans’ tea party element. It had nothing to do with immigration reform, or some Democrat conspiracy to flood the polls. And it was not driven by right-wing talk-radio hosts or operatives from Heritage Action, Club for Growth, Citizens United or ForAmerica (which claimed Cantor’s defeat was an “apocalyptic moment for the GOP establishment”).
This was a complicated recipe, according to Republican strategist Bruce Haynes.

“There were more than four-and-twenty blackbirds baked into this pie,” Haynes said, adding that ultimately the loss had everything to do with Cantor: He lost touch with his constituency; he became too Washington, too associated with the D.C.-bubble brand; he forgot how to relate and to be that guy from his district.

A common thread weaves Cantor’s race to others, said Haynes, “and it’s populism.”

It is a cautionary thread — yet most people in Washington do not understand this moderate-in-tone populist wave. First, the wave is not going to take out every incumbent, so no “secret sauce” can “fix” it; second, it will have broad impact on both parties; third, it is relatively invisible because it has no name, no brand or party allegiance.

The other thing Dave Brat did very effectively and efficiently was to target voters that were outside of the normal Republican primary cohort:

Adler says Brat’s campaign used rVotes to expand its universe beyond the traditional Virginia GOP primary voters being targeted by Rep. Eric Cantor’s campaign. Adler, who previously told C&E he as an apolitical “computer guy” when VAN was founded, said several Tea Party campaigns had donated their data to Brat to allow him to expand his targeting universe.

“Now, suddenly he had access to hundreds if not thousands of different codes,” said Adler. “Funky stuff like anything from ‘voter owns only American cars’ to ‘known patriot group member’ to ‘voter flies a flag’ or ‘voter has an NRA sticker on their car.’ They were aggressively using the system to microtarget.”

Brat spent only $1,500 for using rVotes — about 1 percent of his total campaign’s budget. Adler said the campaign worked out a deal to buy a full membership, which can run as high as $20,000, if Brat won the primary.

If Eric Cantor — and in turn, Reince Prebius and the rest of the national Republicans — don’t correctly identify the causes of why he lost, they are doomed to be surprised again and again. Not only in GOP primaries but in general elections against better-positioned and smarter Democrat candidates.