How Kevin McCarthy is working to make sure he’s not the next Eric Cantor

It's only June, but Kevin McCarthy has already been reelected to the 114th Congress that will convene next January. That's because he was entirely unopposed in the June 3 primary, ensuring that he is the only option that voters in California's 23rd district will have meaning that his only opponent will be a write-in candidate come Nov. 4.

So, it's more than a little interesting that McCarthy went on TV late last week. And what he had to say in the ads makes the whole thing even more intriguing.

In the 30-second ad, which was created by Jon Downs at the GOP media firm FP1 Strategies, McCarthy sends a very simple message: I may be the new House Majority Leader but I'll never forget my roots in this district. "Being elected Majority Leader was an honor but the highest honor is serving our community and you," he says in the ad, adding: "My commitment to our common goals has never been stronger." (There is a 60-second version of the ad as well, where McCarthy talks about building his first small business as a teenager.)

The ads went up the day after McCarthy was elected to the House's second ranking position and are quite clearly a hedge against the idea that serving in the House leadership means McCarthy is taking his eye off of his home district.

It's a direct response to what happened to Eric Cantor, the man who McCarthy replaced after the Virginian fell in a stunning primary upset 13 days ago. The narrative used effectively against Cantor by his tea party-backed opponent was that he had gone Washington, focused more on positioning himself to be the next Speaker of the House than worrying about his Richmond-area district. (Cantor didn't help matters by spending election day in Washington.)

McCarthy is doing everything he can to avoid being Cantorized come 2016. Even if it's only 2014.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Aaron Blake · June 23, 2014