Transcript for Eric Cantor Loses in Shocking Upset
This is a special group. You know I I know there's a lot of long faces here tonight. And -- it's disappointing insurer. But I believe in this country I believe there's opportunity around the next corner for all of us. House majority leader Eric -- in shock and speaking to stunned supporters last night. The second most powerful Republican in the house widely tipped to be the next speaker. Ousted in a shocking primary smackdown. I'm Michelle Franzen a New York DC in shock today Republican leadership on Capitol Hill is getting ready for a major shake up. And no one it appears to say the reason why. This man Dave -- the college professor turn Tea Party upstart defeated six term congressman Eric Cantor the number two Republican in the house. By double digits. A month ago trailing by double digits in most polls -- spoke to ABC news and answer the question everybody's asking today just who wins this guy. One thing I want my vote is nobody's and I always tell the truth might make no mistake I make no mistake but -- I went to Princeton seminary. Seriously -- got a Ph.D. in economics -- being -- -- away from being a liberal by young Eric Cantor to being an extreme Tea Party member. The truth is a free market guy is dedicated to this country into the constitution. Midnight do you want to -- down Washington DC. And bring power back down to the states I think it's much easier camp. Your state delegates and senators they should hear from the people up here everyone. It does so -- tell the truth and. And the people at least in Virginia's seventh district like -- Brad enough to all the deliver and to congress. With more now on what it all means were joined by ABC's Karen Travers Karen. Nobody saw this coming not -- Hyundai and stop the Republican establishment. And certainly not house majority leader Eric Cantor. Obviously we came up short I know there's a lot of long faces here tonight. And it's disappointing sure. -- the second most powerful Republican in the house crushed by unknown challenger. Yeah. Well I love it Dave -- an economics an ethics professor he's the David to Kantor's -- -- in this Republican primary. We want -- hanging. -- cancer certainly spent a lot of them five million dollars in campaign ads fifty times more than what -- spent. Cantor the house leader closest to conservatives he aligned himself with the Tea Party even that made him a major thorn in speaker John Boehner side. Like during the tense negotiations over the fiscal Clinton the end of 2012. It was Eric Cantor as majority leader who was pushing the party back in a conservative direction. They have lost that voice because in part Eric -- lost the credibility he had with that part of the party. Immigration was front and center in this race Brett said -- act President Obama on reform. In charge him with supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. Cantor took a hard right turn a flight back. Voters in diet. I'm here -- the inaccuracies. Republicans are reeling as they try to make sense of -- lost. Already members are making moves to slide -- the leadership ranks. Karen Travers ABC news Capitol Hill. ABC news political director Rick Klein and from Capitol Hill senior Washington correspondent Jeff Celanese thank you both first of all Jeff. First things first cancer canned by Virginia law he cannot run as a independent but he can launch a write in campaign what are we hearing this morning. He can Michelle but Republican sources tell me that Eric Cantor will not want to write in campaign and this is why. Even if he was able to perform that you know what really is a long shot. He would still not be able to retain his spot as majority leader that is the position -- selected by the members here in. The F house Republican. And house Republican ranks every year and there is no way one aide tells me that that he would ever be able to hold -- his majority leader position so effectively if he would be able to win a write -- Uphill battle. He would simply be -- back venture and that's not appealing to him but I'm being told right now that at 4 PM today house Republicans will gather. In a basement room of the capital. Eric Cantor is expected to reveal what one aide tells me is a painful choice. And then this leadership fight will start from there. Rick a lot of folks not just here but all around the country following these primary race is very closely. How is it that last night came as such a surprise especially to cancer. It is stunning it's an earthquake that nobody saw coming in any way no one felt the rumblings of this. Eighty except for Dave -- and the band of supporters that he had down in the Richmond area. -- -- so confident he spent the day in Washington DC raising money for other candidates didn't even get down to his own district on voting day until late in the afternoon that's how confident he was as Karen mentioned the internal polling that his campaign was relying on. Ridiculously wrong he lost by eleven points despite being up by 35 -- -- in their internal polling. This is one of those things we have a small turnout race only about 30000 people voting -- in this district. And the UDU there's no way to really gauge where the electorate is and the fact is we learn now that gave -- supporters have a reason the show up and Eric Cantor supporters for whatever reason didn't feel like they had a reason do they felt like eight. Either had in the -- didn't have to worry about it or whether they felt like they didn't wanna be with them necessarily deep -- got people out he glum lot to this issue of immigration reform use that as a proxy for Republican leadership in Washington that's an unpopular place to be anywhere right now and it certainly was in Richmond last night and Rick we'll get to the palace intrigue in just a minute but first with Eric -- on his way out. What does this mean for president Obama's plan going forward particularly on immigration reform which it -- this primary had a lot going for it. -- -- -- but put a fork in immigration reform for the rest of this year at least. And you might actually put a fork in the rest of the Obama agenda because the idea of house Republicans passing something that senate Democrats and the president will go along with. No incentive to do that right now the feeling in Republican ranks is that. Any areas where they disagree even a little bit from the conservative base. That's political peril that's not the message that they feel like they're being sent by voters to have the house majority leader the number two. In the House of Representatives lose in a primary has never happened as long as it -- is -- the going back to 1899. To this is literally without precedent and it is sending enormous shock waves throughout the rank and. File and Jeff Whitney shock -- and also the sense that cancer. Certainly has lost some power just with this primary is it possible that he could step down as majority leader before the end of his term and who among the candidates. Could take his job. Michelle it's very possible and some Republicans believe it may be. As early. As it today or this week -- Kantor's office has not yet confirmed that so wolf. Have to wait and see what he says at the meeting at 4 o'clock today but essentially his power is gone he's still holds the office of majority leader throughout this a year. -- -- -- congress but the fight is under way right now and the person who is probably at the head of the line here is Kevin McCarthy he has the wit. The house whip which is the number three position he's a Republican of California he's very interested in trying to become a majority leader but what we're going to see play out here is. A an attempt by V. Sort of the outside Republican. Members -- Of people who aren't in the establishment quite as much they -- going to try. And get a spot in leadership at some point so we may see a -- -- -- he's a very conservative Republican. From Texas he may try and run Pete Sessions Republican of Texas and -- of -- also tells ABC news that he intends to run. So we're going to see a big leadership a fight that usually these things sort of dwindle down and they'll be a couple front runners but speaker Boehner wants to have this election sooner. Rather than later to not allow a lot of time to pass through. And -- someone to gain some steam here he would like to see his -- -- leaders now an establishment members. Appointed. But. You know the timing may not be entirely his decision but I think will be. News pretty quickly here Busch and Jeff could that be what this basement meeting might be all about this afternoon and also. Do you think speaker Boehner might be more likely to hand over the gavel. It's interesting I mean speaker Boehner has said again and again he has no plans to retire he just a one his own primary a month or so ago and Ohio he easily defeated a Tea Party challenger. But some people close to speaker -- have always wondered if he is going to call it quits at the end. Of this -- -- The people I'm talking to this morning actually say this makes it more likely that he he would stick around because Eric Cantor was sort of always. Kind of waiting in the wings to be the next speaker and he in as speaker Boehner had sort of work something out perhaps that he could succeed him but. But now speaker Boehner pass to see how this plays out so I think it's more likely they actually sticks around but that'll be a decision he makes at the end. Of this year and the house Republicans make if they decide to reelect him at the beginning of. You and Jeff cancers loss sending ripple affects all around the country word from -- -- just a few minutes ago. Here's some of his response he says quote Eric Cantor is a good man but last night voters in Virginia -- DC -- loud and clear. This election should be a reminder to all in congress that the conservative base is alive and well. And the American people will hold us all accountable. -- how much of this was local politics and how much was the national wave cruise seems to -- suggest. I think it was almost entirely local politics here now of course those aren't necessarily different things but the national spotlight was not on this race that's what makes this so interest and as Rick was talking -- -- -- -- this was -- no one's radar. The outside groups even the big Tea Party groups declined to support mr. -- early on because they quite frankly didn't think he. -- had a chance at all so this was paid a grass -- and sort of movement from the ground up. And he got a lot of support from prominent their radio conservative hosts like Ann -- Laurie anger him in the final weeks but. What this says more than anything is that. It's still. A dangerous thing to be an incumbent and if you don't take your campaign seriously if -- don't sort of squelch your opponent early on this anti incumbency. Anger at Washington. Spirit is alive and well senator -- right about that we can tell every time were out talking to voters. So that's what Eric cancer fell victim to -- he did not take this so seriously spent a lot of time. Raising money for other Republicans and himself around the country obviously not enough time in Richmond in his own back -- And Rick tell us a little bit more about this unknown -- Brad did he win this race or did Eric -- blow it as some have suggested by taking that vote for granite. He won by eleven points and that's is on the about his supporters and and the fact that they are energized that he says something about the candidacy he presented. He was outspent and out fund -- by some estimates 45 or fifty -- one that's correct. Ran almost no advertising. That we know of in fact has won the -- -- in making the rounds today that Eric -- campaign spent more money at state houses mostly for fund raisers. Then the entire -- -- campaign sent that period. So that is 888 telling little story about about where this campaign was run he put videos on line basically just him talking to camera about his ideas. He made immigration reform in his opposition to -- -- -- immigration reform the centerpiece. -- and he's an economics professor at AS small university in Richmond. -- he has a degree from Princeton Theological Seminary that he talks about quite -- -- as well but he is that he is right now. Very much unknown for a lot of his positions he was the -- he's just today whether. Get a position on federal minimum wage and that he didn't have something firm on that -- -- he's -- -- be tested in a way that he hasn't -- yet there is democratic candidate although this is a Republican -- district so he's gonna have to approve it on his -- now in the general elections I don't think it's -- -- to say -- and a lawsuit because he was taking for granted he's been a lot of money on this campaign surely wanted to win the primary he didn't take seriously the challenge but there's something about -- -- message -- everyone to say about it -- -- voters out there in far larger numbers than those that came out for -- A political shocker Rick Klein and -- felony thank you both. Thank you thanks -- this has been an ABC news digital special report keep up with this story and real time by downloading the ABC news -- and starring this story. For those exclusive updates on the go for now I'm Michelle Franzen in New York.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.