Bill Kristol draws an interesting parallel between Jeff Bell's 1978 victory over New Jersey senator Clifford Case and Dave Brat's victory over Eric Cantor last night:
So it is—perhaps the most stunning upset since in congressional history since an underfunded and little known challenger, Jeff Bell, defeated a 24-year incumbent, Clifford Case, in the 1978 New Jersey GOP Senate primary. Like Brat, Bell focused on one issue to oust the incumbent. In Bell's case, it was supply-side tax cuts. In Brat's case, the issue was immigration. But like Brat, Bell used his main issue as a kind of example and pivot point for the need for a broader change in orientation by the Republican party.
In both cases, the challengers made a broad populist case for a Republican party focused on Main Street and Middle America, not on Wall Street and corporate interests. The reigning Republican orthodoxy in 1978 was that if tax cuts were needed, they should be business-friendly ones, not cuts in personal marginal income tax rates. Similarly, Brat used his critique of "amnesty" to launch a broad assault on GOP elites who put the interests of American corporations over American workers, of D.C. lobbyists over American families. Also, in both cases most national conservative leaders and groups stayed out of the race, thinking the challenge was hopeless or that the challengers' issues was too eccentric. Both Bell and Brat won authentic grassroots victories.