House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat in a Virginia primary Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing has left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent. Check here for updates as Washington reacts to the unprecedented upset.
Conservative blogger Erick Erickson doesn’t want to see House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) become the next majority leader. He’d rather have Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) do it.
With McCarthy, Erickson writes on RedState.com, “House leaders will be signaling they’ve learned nothing from Cantor’s defeat. Jeb Hensarling is a better choice and they should reconsider.”
McCarthy, he continues, “is not very conservative and, for all of Cantor’s faults, lacks Cantor’s intelligence on a number of issues. Lest we forget, McCarthy had several high profile screw ups as Whip and has not really seemed to ever improve over time.”
Mark Levin, one of two conservative talk radio hosts who fought for David Brat in his insurgent campaign against Majority Leader Eric Cantor, began another campaign of sorts Wednesday evening, this time against Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican considered likely to replace Cantor as the party’s Majority Leader.
“Apparently the leadership isn’t getting the message,” said Levin, who along with talk show how Laura Ingraham, was a notable backer of Brat’s campaign. “We want a constitutional conservative in the leadership, not just the next guy in line. . . ,” he said, referring to reports that McCarthy, now the number three in leadership, was considered likely to replace Cantor in the majority leader post. “They all sound alike, they look alike almost,” Levin said referring to the GOP House leadership team. “I don’t think they have learned a damned thing.”
Just before making his argument Wednesday evening, Levin interviewed Brat on his syndicated “The Mark Levin Show.” Brat described his come-from-behind campaign — and went out of his way to thank Levin for his early support. Levin called Brat “smarter than Boehner and McCarthy combined.”
He also dubbed the two leaders “the same,” as Cantor. “They are the same crony capitalists, the same Chamber of Commerce, the same K Street. The same Mr. Amnesty,” he said.
David Brat told conservative radio host and backer Mark Levin that Cantor was routinely spreading false information about him during the campaign, which he argued the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper fell short of covering fairly.
“Eric was sending out untruths” by the day, Brat told Levin on his radio program, also hitting the paper’s treatment of him.
“The Richmond Times-Dispatch came out bashing me after I won. They are still yearning for Eric Cantor,” he said.
Brat said Cantor held inconsistent positions on immigration and “amnesty just jumped straight up” in the campaign.
At dusk, as final round of votes went on in House, a hunched man with salt and pepper hair took a tour group around the Capitol, telling stories about famous House members, unnoticed as aides walked by. It was former speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), guiding a family around.
“Eric had a lot of promise and some people pinned their hopes to him,” he said, pausing outside the office he once occupied. “But things change in this business. One day you’re at the top and the next you’re saying goodbye to your staff.”
“Things go on,” he added, saying the House GOP would recover. “It’s time for him to go back to Richmond, reflect, and be happy.”
Current and former staffers for soon-to-step-down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor flooded into the Tune Inn Wednesday for a semi-private shindig featuring some heartfelt sobs, a few laughs and lots of Jameson.
The aides assembled at the Capitol Hill watering hole shortly before the Virginia Republican took to TV to announce that he would be relinquishing his leadership post, but not his seat, as of July 31. Cantor suffered a bruising defeat at the hands of tea party candidate Dave Brat on Tuesday night.
Once the news conference was over, the commiserators wiped away their tears and immediately opened their wallets — ponying up $500 and $1,000 contributions apiece in order to cover the $6,500 required to have the bar to themselves from 6 p.m. ’til closing.
According to two top House Republicans close to him, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his inner circle privately today that he plans to stay on and run for speaker, that he has decided that it’s the best decision for the party in a time of unrest.
Boehner won’t formally announce this anytime soon, but he is saying it to friends to reassure them that he is not eyeing the door.
NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said the national party was ready to help David Brat but have had trouble reaching him.
Multiple times Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Walden texted and called Brat to say congratulations and offer assistance, but Brat’s voicemail was full and by 6 p.m. Wednesday, they had not yet spoken.
Walden said the GOP only had Brat’s cell as a point of contact but expected to connect with him soon over phone and in Washington.
Promising to be a hard-charging salesman for the Republican Party and a voice for House conservatives who have clashed with the current leadership, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas campaigned Wednesday afternoon to be the next House majority leader, holding several private meetings and nearly sprinting through the Capitol to shake hands with his colleagues.
A confident Sessions predicted in an interview that he would beat the race’s presumed frontrunner, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, arguing that as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee during the tea party wave of 2010, he won as many allies as McCarthy, and that as the current chairman of the Rules Committee, he is ready to manage the House floor.
“I’ll be a majority leader who will be clear-headed about what we’re going to try to accomplish, putting more focus on what we’re trying to sell,” Sessions said, adding that he has a “strong and open” relationship with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). “I know how to win, I did it at the NRCC, and I will help us win majorities.”
This map from The Post’s graphics team explains why: