- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2014

As House Republicans gird for a fight over his replacement, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Sunday he has “no regrets” about the build-up to his stunning Republican primary loss that toppled him from his perch on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, put on a cheerful demeanor for a round of televised interviews in his first extensive comments since David Brat, an unknown professor with tea party support, defeated him Tuesday in his home district outside Richmond.

“I really don’t think that there is any one reason for the outcome of the election,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “There’s just a lot of things that go through voters’ minds when they go to the voting booth.”

But there are plenty of theories floating around. Some said Mr. Cantor lost touch with his district while he attended to his national duties as the second most powerful House Republican behind Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio. Others claimed thousands of Democrats must have voted against him in Virginia’s open primary.

Observers also have said Mr. Cantor may have been doomed by a have-it-both-ways stance on immigration reform — saying he opposed a general amnesty but supported legalizing younger illegal immigrants known as “Dreamers.” As a result, conservatives attacked him as a closet amnesty backer who’d betray them, a view Mr. Cantor denied Sunday.

“I have always said, ‘I was not for a comprehensive amnesty bill,’” Mr. Cantor said.

SEE ALSO: WILLIAMS: Voting with their feet

Instead, he said he wanted to let children of illegal immigrants get a break because they were brought to the country unwittingly.

“I don’t think Eric got beat because of his stand on immigration,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“I think he got beat because his lack of defining himself on immigration,” said Mr. Graham, who won his primary that same evening despite having been a co-author of the Senate bill that featured a broad path to citizenship.

Mr. Cantor said he will focus on a conservative agenda during his remaining months in Washington. He declined to entertain suggestions his Jewish religion played a role in the outcome — Mr. Brat played up his Christianity — and said he will support Mr. Brat to keep the seat in Republican hands.

The day after his loss, Mr. Cantor announced that he would step down as majority leader at the end of July. The race to replace him favors House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, California Republican who quickly courted support from his colleagues.

He will have to duke it out with hard right Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho when the GOP caucus votes this week. Although Mr. Cantor lost to a tea party-backed opponent, Mr. McCarthy has a less conservative record than the current majority leader.

Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, told “Fox News Sunday” that a weeklong campaign within the GOP caucus “tends to favor those with the apparatus in place,” so it is unlike those dynamics that were at play in Mr. Cantor’s election back home.

“I think he will end up winning this in a pretty solid way,” Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said of Mr. McCarthy.

But conservatives known for shaking up the establishment are backing Mr. Labrador.

“The majority leader’s main job is to set the agenda for House Republicans. We must have a solid conservative set that agenda, or we’ll risk being out of step with our constituents,” Rep. Justin Amash, Michigan Republican, said Friday.

Some lawmakers say the South and heartland of America are underrepresented in GOP leadership, so members from those regions may be reluctant to support a West coast member like Mr. McCarthy. The dynamic also is evident in the race for Republican majority whip, because Mr. McCarthy is likely to vacate the position.

Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana are competing for the whip job, and the field could widen.
“You got to let this play out,” Mr. Price told Fox News.

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