G.O.P. political earthquake - the ouster of Eric Cantor - likely to impact 2016 Presidential race
Most of us didn't see this coming.
Indeed, the establishment G.O.P. seemed to have found the formula to thwart Tea Party challengers this year, UNTIL Mississippi's Senate primary (which also had an age component), and now, much more dramatically and convincingly, the first primary ouster of a sitting House Minority Leader in U.S. history.
The irony: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at times seemed to challenge House Speaker John Boehner from the Right. But did Cantor perhaps unleash forces he could not possibly control? In other words, the notion that Cantor was Frankenstein.
(If you had told me out of the blue that Eric Cantor had been toppled, I would've assumed that meant his even more conservative House colleagues had toppled him from the House leadership. But parallel thinking: Even though he survived his primary, could restive House Republicans now unseat John Boehner as House Speaker?)
Of course, we could read a little too much into all this. South Carolina's Senator Lindsey Graham easily won his primary contest in a much more Southern state, but that was a statewide race against challengers who split the anti-Graham vote.
But back to that Virginia race: The Frankenstein-slayer, Randolph-Macon College economics professor David Brat, is no Christine O'Donnell, despite his little political experience. We didn't hear about Brat committing any notable gaffes. Then again, so many political reporters expected an easy Cantor win, it's also possible few were scrutinizing Brat that closely.
Echoes of Mike Castle here in Delaware: Overconfidence in the Cantor camp. And establishment Republicans better re-evaluate their pollsters. Cantor's campaign had an internal poll (John McLaughlin) released last week showing the House Minority Leader 34 points ahead of the challenger! The DAILY CALLER showed Cantor ahead, albeit by only 13 points. Mainstream G.O.P. pollsters don't seem to have absorbed the lessons from 2012.
One difference between Delaware and that Virginia Congressional race: We all know Christine O'Donnell had more money to spend. (Although the millions of dollars came in for the general election against Chris Coons.) That was not the case for Brat, a true insurgent. Brat: $200,000 Cantor: $5.4 Million
(Ironically, the Democratic candidate for this seat is ALSO a professor from tiny Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, so it'll be one prof against another. The Dem candidate, Jack Trammell, is a sociology professor. How's that for confirming the stereotype? But David Brat thwarts the stereotype in the KIND of economics he teaches: Third World economics. Barring some unimaginable lightning bolt, Brat will win the seat this November. Put in another way, though, a Trammell upset win over Brat is just about as implausible as Brat having toppled the House Minority Leader.)
Without a doubt, this Virginia earthquake (in a district shaken not too long ago by that REAL, literal earthquake in 2011) will embolden the Tea Party and other anti-establishment conservatives. Inspired and energized, Tea Party activists might put in even more effort to defeating "safe" Republican incumbents.
It also makes the path to the Republican Presidential nomination even rockier for potential "establishment" candidates. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and even Rick Perry: 2016 is likely not your year. Ted Cruz, you just got a hell of a boost (at about the same time Cruz formally renounced his Canadian citizenship!)
Democrats will celebrate, but there's always the danger of overconfidence. (Incidentally, one thing we don't completely know: In an open primary state, the extent to which some "naughty" Dems might have crossed over to vote for Brat!)
By initial media accounts, immigration loomed large in this Virginia Congressional race, and Brat hit Cantor hard on that subject. Now, more than ever, immigration reform is dead on Capitol Hill. And estabishment Republicans will grit their teeth over their longterm demographic problem.
Meanwhile, the resulting tightened gridlock in Congress will mirror the gridlock here in Delaware on I-95 and 141 following the damaged I-495 bridge. Any deviation from ideological orthodoxy is apt to be severely punished, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line. After a relative easing, look for another debt-ceiling fiasco.
(Brat considers himself a conservative Roman Catholic. Master's degree: Princeton Theological Seminary. In some ways, his harsh immigration stance is at odds with his church the way liberal Democratic Catholic politicians are at odds with their church on abortion rights, etc. And speaking of religion, not mentioned in most media accounts, Eric Cantor was the highest-ranking Jewish politician in Congress. Indeed, he was the only Jewish Republican in Congress. Some Jews will lament the partisan polarization.)
From The NEW YORK TIMES: WHY DID CANTOR LOSE? NOT EASY to EXPLAIN...
And an article about Jewish Americans losing their first shot at a Jewish House Speaker, but also the disdain that some liberal Jewish Democrats felt towards Cantor:
Key paragraph: "Across the aisle, the reactions to Cantor's defeat ranged from shock and distress to barely-restrained glee. For partisan Jewish Democrats, Cantor has long been a supremely annoying figure, perceived as a front man for a conservative party that's hostile to the values a strong majority of Jews share on issues from economic inequality to gay marriage to immigration, the central animating issue of Cantor challenger Dave Brat's campaign..."
2014 elections are going to be very interesting...
My hope is that the Republicans don't get too confident after the 2014 election results... a very different segment of our society turns out for the "big ticket" event of a Presidential election.
Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 8:58am
EarlGrey: I agree. The party faithful [DEM and G.O.P.] turn out, while the average citizen doesn't, so it is easy to get over-confident and then lose the big prize in 2016.
The other part of that over-confident thing that especially afflicts the Republicans, more specifically the TEA wing, is when they believe they've got it in the bag. Then they start talking crazy, with extreme stuff they're going to do [their base loves this stuff]. But what they don't realize is most of the public doesn't. I believe this is part of what hurt Romney in 2012.
Consider that Rush Limbaugh has the highest-rated radio show in America. However, that equals about 5% of the actual radio audience. So 95% of radio listeners do NOT listen to Rush. So his audience doesn't necessarily represent a majority view. The TEA folks make the mistake in believing that because they and their friends genuflect when Rush speaks or when Phil of Duck Dynasty appears on TV, most folks simply change stations when either is on.
My point is the TEA folks have some good points and ideas, but they also have some extreme points and nutty ideas. They get caught up in their own hype and forget most folks don't see it quite as extremely as they, so not getting arrogant, extreme, trying to force stuff on the public like shutting down the government, etc., will help them to sell the rest of the nation that they are a valid group, not some "Montana Militia Wingnut Band of Gun toting illiterates".
Perception is everything.
An example, granted some of these folks may not be TEA folks, but it wouldn't surprise me if most were.
"The organization, Open Carry Texas, is one of many groups nationwide that advocate for the right of gun owners to wear and carry firearms openly in public. Photos from a rally by supporters of the group at a Dallas-area Chipotle restaurant went viral this week, prompting the burrito chain to declare that firearms are unwelcome in its restaurants.
On Friday, The Huffington Post reported that Chili's was also reconsidering its policy after a similar rally at one of its San Antonio restaurants. Video apparently taken by a participant in the rally shows a confrontation with a woman, apparently a patron, who scolds the men for bringing large guns into a restaurant where children are eating."
It's this sort of stuff that turn people off the TEA party, even though they are not named in the article, this is the image the TEA party has with most folks.
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 9:10am
Mike: The people who vote in primaries and mid-term elections are, IMHO, much more informed on each individual candidate and his or her policies... in the general election, I would wager very few have any idea for whom they are voting, and typically just go straight-ticket D or R.
The Tea Party, again IMHO, is going to do well in the mid-terms, but would not fare very well in the national Presidential election, due to the lack of knowledge about the candidates or their policies... maybe the only way to force voters to be better informed when voting is by removing the letters (R) and (D) from the voting machines.
Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 10:27am
EarlGrey: I agree. The problem I see, though, is the TEA Party wants a one-size-fits-all. Cut, cut, slash, no matter who or what it hurts or destroys, just so long as the 2% don't pay a dime more in taxes.
I totally would agree that there is much waste and abuse in the government, both Fed and State. The politicians of both parties will use that as their sound byte, but neither ever go after that waste and abuse. It's easier to just eliminate, which seems to be the TEA Party mantra.
The TEA philosophy is to return our Federal government to what it was in 1783 [not sure if I want to wear a tri-cornered hat]. This is not practical in today's world. Granted, some Fed departments don't need to exist, but what the TEA folks forget is the income-tax came into existence because of Prohibition. Prior to that, the Fed got its money from liquor tax. So once the sale of liquor was illegal, the government had to come up with another way to pay for its operation, thus the income tax. Now granted once Prohibition ended the government didn't curtail the income tax, but instead kept both liquor and income taxes.
The issue is more about how the TEA party would go about scaling back the government. From all I hear from TEA Party spokespeople, it would be done on the backs of the little guy, not the big guys, including them, in D.C. I'd be more interested in cutting government spending if it worked the other way around.
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 2:49pm
Brat considers himself a conservative Roman Catholic. Master's degree: Princeton Theological Seminary. In some ways, his harsh immigration stance is at odds with his churchthe way liberal Democratic Catholic politicians are at odds with their church on abortion rights, etc.
So, a secure border, legal immigration and no amnesty are considered a "harsh" immigration stance by the Catholic church?
From what I have read, a large portion of the current flood of illegal trespassers at the southern border of our country are from South America... is Mexico shipping those attempting to enter their country to ours? Isn't that how we imported MS-13 to the United States many years ago?
Mike from Delaware
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 3:34pm
Mexico is like a one-way street; their way or no way. They ONLY care about Mexico and it appears the only border issues they have are if Americans cross THEIR border accidentally. Mexico apparently looks the other way as these kids from Central America are riding on top of trains, etc., to get to our U.S. border. Mexico is NOT an ally. They are still fighting the Alamo and resent losing what we call the Southwestern part of the U.S. Remember, most of the Southwest [Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California] was part of Mexico at one time.
The dust needs to settle before the lemmings start jumping off the cliff. Both the panic and jubilation are misplaced.
How is it that Brat's immigration position resonated so broadly as to motivate the removal of a powerful incumbent? It didn't. Cantor lost because he wasn't Republican enough in a district where that sin that is unforgivable.
Why wasn't he Republican enough? Cantor's representative district was, like every election district, gerrymandered to insure the incumbent's re-election. Hence, when they broke out the wax pencil to draw boundaries they intentionally created a district chock full of very conservative Republicans. They did this to the exclusion of Democrats, independents and other perceived political misfits. So what, you ask? By carving out non-Republicans, Cantor had no middle ground to save him. Like the ballast on a ship, when it shifts you need sufficient counterbalance or things get turned upside down. Cantor's district became too conservative for him. They moved a little right; he was perceived as moving a little left. Ship turned over. Cantor out. Moral of the story: Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.
The hue and cry that the Tea Party won the election ignores the fact that Brat got no national Tea Party backing. It was the local Virginia Tea Bags that helped Brat, barely. The lack of the national backing meant Brat got little money.
Finally, more than one commentator has pointed out that Cantor was genuinely disliked.
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 6:56pm
I'd say your analysis above is spot on, including the part about Brat getting next to no national Tea Party support -- in contrast to local activists in Virginia. (Although some national conservative talk-show hosts, from what I've read, began singing the praises of Brat.)
And at least some voters in that Republican primary contest were turned-off by what they perceived as Cantor's careerism, and obvious interest in becoming the next House Speaker.
Perhaps I was sensing something that was not objectively there, but seeing Cantor on TV, it always seemed to me that he looked a little ill at ease.
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 8:43pm
The TEA party would be ill-advised to get too excited over this. I remember the day before the 2012 election all my talk-show heroes were gloating over how Romney would beat Obama by a landslide. In fact, you'd have thought the election was already over they were so gleeful.
I do know that at least Dick Morris has become much more careful about making predictions and now uses the disclaimer "anything can happen" quite frequently.
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 8:47pm
I do think the House needs a new speaker. I don't mind if the people of Ohio re-elect Boehner, but it would be best if the House body elected new leadership. We need leadership with backbone.
Wed, Jun 11, 2014 9:20pm
You are correct...Brat received no support from the national Tea Party types and a genuine grassroots movement (plus Democrats) helped unseat an arrogant and overconfident establishment-darling.
If you want to read the Top Ten reasons Brat won (according to one of the Virginia Republicans who grew tired of Cantor ignoring his constituents)...read this:
What has been most interesting for me, is how the national media rushed to explain the defeat, by going to their files and pulling out the "usual suspects"....
Here they are.... add some if you think of any...
Victory for Tea Party
Was all About Amnesty to Illegals
Conservatism strikes again
RINO's Always Get Defeated
Democrats Crossed Over To Throw The Election...
Tea Party is Not Dead After All
Whatever cause one had before, they used it to blame Cantors defeat.... All of it is crap.
Through the top notch reporting of Allan Loudell, and a call airing on the Rick Jensen show, we here in Delaware were privileged to hear from the ground in Va's 7th district....
It appears that none of the above is true... In fact, it was Eric's concern with the "big issues" versus his lack of concern with the "Big local Issues", that caused his demise...
Very similar to what Carney is doing here, chasing after big money donors at the expense of the average Delawarean voter. I mean Carney just voted to weaken away the Dodd-Frank bill...and return us to the outlaw era of non-regulatory structure that caused the crash of 2008.... He has to live in a different world.
It was the same with Castle... Most pundits in 2010 had no idea. We called it 3 days before the election.... And it swung,almost right before our eyes just the day before.... Castle's problem was that he was then seen, rightly or wrongly, as more interested in helping to smuggle chemicals into the country for Dupont, than caring about Delawareans hurt by that last recession....
Beware of giving people the right to express their frustration. They will use it...
Tony Deluca was a local case here. WE called that 4 weeks into DeLuca's mailings... Because We heard the same thing they mentioned in Cantor's race... which was:
"What? We haven't heard anything from him for 12 years, and now.... every day there is another piece of trash in our mailbox?
Every politician of any party needs to make sure the first part doesn't happen to them....
Not being heard from.....
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 4:46am
Quick topic change... Allan ... were you blindsided as were most us us by the fall of Iraq's key cities? Did is miss all the build up, or was Ed Yeranian caught off guard as well...
Would that mean this was more of a surprise coup, than an ongoing civil war leading up to capitulation by the Iraqi's? As with Crimea, African countries, Thailand, the command and control structures are quickly overrun in a surprise ambush, and it is then a fait accompli with little fighting....
Or was America's press so preoccupied with Republicans hogging the microphones about the non-crises of Benghazi, that news of Al Qaeda's victories mounting up one by one were being shoved off the networks?
If the latter, it shows the problem with America's press. It's editors and producers live in their own world, which is very different from the lives of the rest of us....
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 4:52am
Topic change again... I've been looking for this and today, it finally showed up in the search engines... It is from January of this year... It is the first I think, that anyone has shifted from saying "perhaps" to "it is so"....
Regarding the Castle/O'Donnell -- Cantor/Brat parallel:
I think we all forget two things:
(1). Christine O'Donnell received substantial money for her race (although the millions of dollars came for the general election); Brat received zilch.
(2). It became apparent in the final weeks that Castle was treading water, so much so, that I asked Castle on-the-air some days before the primary election... could he support Christine O'Donnell if she were the nominee, or would he consider the possibility of an independent candidacy? Castle demurred. He offered a rather convoluted answer.
Further, we knew that many Brandywine Republicans had re-registered as Democrats to vote in that Democratic Presidential primary (Obama vs. Hillary Clinton) and in the Democratic gubernatorial primary (Carney vs. Markell... many of these folks wanted to vote for Markell, creating an ironic coalition: Young Dem progressives and Chateau-country business types, both groups strongly for Markell, against Carney, whose major support came from the Democratic Party establishment and most organized labor).
So we KNEW Castle was in trouble. But, that didn't register with the remaining registered Republicans in New Castle County, who just assumed Castle would trounce O'Donnell. It was a perfect storm gathering to ambush Castle.
To my knowledge, no one asked Cantor if he would support whomever won the G.O.P. primary because no one, maybe not even Brat himself, thought that the college prof could pull that stunning an upset. Of course, Brat had no money for independent polling of his own.
Another irony: As noted above, by many accounts, Cantor was not exactly well-liked and admired, whereas even many Delaware Dems liked Castle personally and would cross over to vote for him in a general election. By the way, I find Christine O'Donnell personally likable.
One final point about the comparison between the Delaware & Virginia G.O.P. primaries: Brat sailed completely below the popular media radar. Christine O'Donnell was already known in Delaware from her previous races, and from national media exposure (Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect"). So Christine O'Donnell already had what we call "baggage".
On Iraq: The deteriorating situation on the ground has been evident for some time. But no, I didn't expect Mosul nor Saddam's hometown of Tikrit to fall.
The Obama Administration is resisting pressure to assist the Iranian-leaning, Iraqi central government with manned air strikes or even drone strikes. But will Baghdad fall? From this distance, difficult to say. Paradoxically, one assumes the Iranians would intervene to assist the Shi'a-dominated, Iraqi central government against the Sunni extremists. How's that for irony?
Meanwhile, cash-strapped U.S. media organizations have nearly abandoned Iraq and Afghanistan, and often rely on "stringers". It's a double-whammy, when researchers and consultants tell news organizations that Americans are fatigued hearing anything about Iraq or Afghanistan. That's the pattern for U.S. military interventions: Wall-to-wall, intensive coverage in the opening weeks; rah-rah from ordinary Americans; talking-heads filling airtime. Later, fatigue sits in. Been there, done that. Except for military families directly affected, average Americans psychologically move on. And people overseas know it. I remember an Afghan or Pakistani telling me around the time the U.S. invaded Afghanistan that whatever the U.S. achieved wouldn't last. We're not equipped to sustain long, costly military interventions. It's the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, not the Republic of Vietnam. Case closed.
By the way, I hope everyone derives an object lesson from Iraq. I remember when some of the conservative talk-show hosts castigated the Middle-East experts as academics in their ivory towers when these profs warned about the long-term consequences of toppling Saddam. The neo-conservatives, of course, argued that a "democratized" Iraq would represent a new force in the Middle-East, even a force that would recognize the State of Israel. What poppycock! Iraqis would become great friends with Israel? What were the neo-cons smoking? Remember, even Christian Arabs are generally not too sympathetic to the Israelis. The first President Bush, as you'll recall, resisted calls to advance to Baghdad in the first Gulf War. Bush Senior grasped the dangers of pulling the genie out of the bottle.
I'll go back even further. When resisting Soviet communist expanionism was the priority, I remember some south Asia experts warning about the potential dangers of arming Islamist "freedom fighters" (mujahadeen) against the Soviet-backed Najibullah regime in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan's CIA director William Casey saw the Soviets behind international terrorism, which paradoxically came out of CIA black propaganda. Again, the hawks of that day derided the south Asian specialists as folks sitting in their ivory towers with no grasp of reality. In retrospect, who had the better grasp of "reality"? Sometimes people who have dedicated their lives and souls to the study of a particular region of the world have a much better grasp of "reality" than certain talk-show hosts who pander to their audiences. Or people in think tanks blinded by their parochial ideology. Or even people in intelligence.
I remember fiercely questioning a "neo-con" (I don't think the term had come into common usage yet!) during the period when Saddam Hussein was threatening to invade Kuwait. This particular neo-con, who later became the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, kept insisting to me that Saddam was just threatening Kuwait for internal consumption, just throwing "red meat" to his folks. I assumed Saddam was going to do it. I don't know why.
To kavips (on a completely different subject): Monarch sightings have been few so far, even in the Deep South, according to the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) website. One observer in Louisiana has seen two.
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 8:43am
Allan: Good review, Thanks.
With the Brat/Cantor story, we also should not forget the TEA candidates have lost most of their primary challenges so far, granted this was a big one, but apparently Mr. Cantor forgot whom he represented, as Mr. Carney seems to have done. Will there be a rogue DEM in Delaware to challenge Carney for his seat? Probably not, because DEMS stick together better than Republicans. DEMS would rather have a DINO than a Republican represent them in Congress, whereas the TEA folks won't accept a RINO so they challenge those folks hoping to replace them with their handpicked candidate. Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, are far less tolerant of those who are not totally in agreement with their views than most DEMS [other than the real extremists, like a Bill Maher type], and as a result the G.O.P. seems to have far more infighting among themselves than DEMS.
Of course the DEMS love this as does the media. The DEMS like it, because for example in the 2008 Prez election, the G.O.P. spent weeks slashing and dicing up each other in all those debates prior to their the final nomination, so by time Romney was nominated, the public as well as the DEMS knew where the weaknesses of Romney and their party platform were, and made the DEMS' job of defeating him far easier. Granted, Romney and some of the very conservative Republicans did say some stupid things during the campaign which also helped Mitt to lose the election.
The media loved it, as I recall many of those debates actually got pretty good ratings, plus providing exciting news to bolster their newscasts. The talking heads, both left and right, had plenty of fodder to use each day on their respective radio or Cable shows.
My point is, I know many in the TEA party will see this victory meaning the TEA folks are going to take over Congress and soon we'll all be marching in lockstep to the tune of the TEA party. But as Mrpizza above pointed out, it's one victory; don't count your chickens before they hatch.
As Allan, Kavips, and EarlGrey have pointed out at different times, the voters in a Primary are the real party zealots who want political purity, whereas on election day most folks want someone more in the middle, not extreme in either direction, who will represent their views in D.C., not the lobbyists, and get something done to fix our many problems, which doesn't include shutting down the government.
So the Brat victory is something for the TEA folks to celebrate, for other politicians it's a wake-up call to remember who sent you to D.C., for the rest of us, depending on your political bent, it will either offer you some hope of a TEA victory, or for others, remind you that you need to help the DEMS get out the vote in November to keep a TEA takeover of Congress from happening. It's all a matter of perspective and where you stand politically.
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 9:11am
Mike from Delaware---
"Jason" at Delaware Liberal threatens a primary run against Congressman Carney.
I can't tell if it's tongue-in-cheek, or if Jason's serious... assuming he or someone can post the entry fees.
Jason acknowledges it would be a quixotic quest, but wants to challenge Carney's corporate tilt.
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 10:10am
That would indeed be interesting if "Jason" was able to launch a primary run against Carney.
As I believe it was Al Mascitti who said the other day, Delaware essentially having only one real political party; [the DEMS] in Delaware do have the DINO's who act more like Republicans than DEMS and as I recall he did point out John Carney as being one of those.
I haven't had Al on yet today, guess I'll have to give him a listen to hear if he or "El Somnambulo" a.k.a. Steve Tanzer from Del Lib [believe he's supposed to be on today] has anything to say about Jason.
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 11:16am
Is Carney really a DINO or is he simply not a Progressive?
It seems Democrats are turning more and more Progressive every election...
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 12:33pm
Earl, for your statement to be true, you first need to define "progressive". I see the exact opposite of what you state. I see less progressivism...and more capitulation towards those with money.
Our different views could be based on our different interpretations of progressivism..... Carney is not progressive...
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 1:09pm
I agree: Congressman Carney is not a progressive, the way that term is normally defined.
But I do perceive him as a tad more liberal than Senator Carper, and a little less pro-Israel "hawkish" than Senator Coons.
Carney is certainly not as conservative as some Democratic senators from red states...
Mike from Delaware
Thu, Jun 12, 2014 1:26pm
So bottom line is where the particular DEM or Republican is located from will help determine how extreme that person would be. Northeastern Republicans are generally seen as RINOS by Southern Red State Republicans. DEMS probably tend to be more liberal from Blue states than DEMS from Red states. So essentially there are four parties DEM-Progressive [far left], DEM-Moderate [middle-of-the-road leaning left], G.O.P.-Moderate [middle-of-the-road leaning right], and G.O.P./TEA-Conservative [far right].
I'd prefer to have four parties; than the voters could better choose whom they'd prefer, rather than getting stuck with someone who's either too extreme or not extreme enough [depending on your point-of-view]. My guess is then the real race would between the DEM-Moderate and G.O.P.-Moderate, as both DEM-Progressives and G.O.P./TEA-Conservatives go too far in their respective approaches to governing.
That's why the TEA folks don't branch off and form their own party; they know they don't have enough national support that way, so they just piggy-back off the mainstream Republican party. Same with the Progressives on the DEM side of the aisle. So we end up having these contentious battles that keep the wheeels of government from being very efficient.
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