Transcript for Eric Cantor Stepping Down as Majority Leader
Mad dash on Capitol Hill today the race to replace majority leader Eric -- underway right now in Washington. Cancer defeated by a new -- and Tea Party challenger. In the Republican primary race last night hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen in New York Eric Cantor right now preparing to make his first. Public comments since his concession speech last night. First -- let's get to the hill where ABC's Karen Travers has the latest. -- Christians are scrambling to sort out where things stand in their ranks after one of the biggest upsets in political history. -- One has already been made cantor will step down as majority leader. There's still a matter of timing he hopes to stay on through July but the politicking has already begun -- Republicans hoping to move up the leadership ranks. Nobody not eating cantor and his team could have predicted that unknown economics professor Dave Brad could -- pulled out the win. Obviously we came up short I know there's a lot of long faces here tonight. And it's disappointing sure. -- had tons more money than brat he outspent his challenger fifty to one. -- -- -- -- -- Immigration was a key issue and -- went after cancer heart. He was viewed as being too close a President Obama on immigration reform potentially supporting something akin to amnesty -- took a hard right. Turn the fight back but it wasn't enough. Eric Cantor was the house leader closeness to conservatives -- aligned himself with the Tea Party even when that caused tension speaker Boehner. He was widely considered to be next in line for that proposition. Makes his big defeat even more shocking cab drivers ABC news Washington. Let's go to ABC news political director Rick Klein now Rick thanks for joining us again what are we expecting to hear from Eric Cantor tonight. We're we're expecting to hear that the majority leader will step down from his leadership post -- July 31. At the outside is what we've heard -- earlier -- that. It may be some kind of transition period were being told and an election for majority leader. As soon as -- next week in this is going to be a spirited campaign that's gonna hit the divided forces of the Republican Party. Against each other Americana are doing really be inevitable given the circumstances it. The and he leads the majority of the of the Republican Party in the house representatives and the ground Republican Party in his own district -- they didn't want to do their congressman anymore so. It was an untenable position he's already made it known he does not plan to run for reelection as a write in candidate he's going to leave congress at the end of the year. And now leaving leadership even sooner than that. Rick what's sad -- you that he has decided an already come out less than 24 hours after he lost that he will not be a write in candidate. Two thoughts one is being mean good soldier he is a Republican -- through he's let it be known. Through his that you through aides and friends that he views himself as the as the proud -- well Republican he respects the decision of the voters in his district in Richmond Virginia. The other thing is that he realizes that the forces in the in the party are such that if you were returned to congress as a write in candidate. He would be a non entity persona non Grata he would be known as the guy. Who was beaten by the Tea Party and he would still be serving as a Republican no chance of a leadership career and keep in mind this time yesterday we saw what Eric Cantor is the next speaker of the House of Representatives so yes -- stunning fall from grace based on the election results. Taking can't turn of course Republicans by surprise and -- -- -- house Republicans vote on a replacement what's the timeline here. Our colleague -- -- being told that -- he will be late next week possibly next Thursday. For a new vote on the majority leader -- -- about one Republican that there could be a transition period where he continued to serve. May be up until the August recess maybe -- -- go down a little for that fact is there's a lot of work to be done. In congress the rest of the year and because of the August recess and and the campaigning for the fall -- really the job of the majority leader won't start again in earnest until January however. In important point for majority leader cancer still majority leader cancer to me is that there has to be -- -- -- debate inside the party and is about the future -- -- -- -- go to illegal -- establishment -- the speaker -- to -- more Tea Party -- -- They've got to figure that out sooner than later in the -- that he can get someone else installed in that role and figure out the leadership team -- better positioned LB for the fall campaign beyond. And we have mentioned that this has been a political surprise someone call it a political earthquake the ground is -- shifting and the race to take Kantor's job. Has that already played out here. -- there's two schools of thought one has a very lawful and this is about majority leader cancer being out of -- this district he more associated with Washington in New York money interest that he is with the folks back and Richmond's fact that he spent the day primary day in Washington instead of Richmond yesterday. Emblematic of that. The other school of thought is that look this is this is it further proof -- he needed -- That there's a restlessness arrested this inside the Republican Party inside the conservative base that's willing to take down even the very biggest names in that that in fact the politics throughout. And that will it double also -- -- now the internal dynamics inside the house because what direction -- want to take you wanna be accommodation is that all you wanna go down to the wire. On more government shutdowns will be another debt ceiling they were talking about by next spring. And that's -- color this -- -- I think we're immigration reform which effectively dead as a result of -- lost so all of those things are gonna come into a debate that has been a roiling debate is that the Republican Party. Go back to 222012. That Republican parties and having this fight for its very soul and -- -- Weeding out members along the way they've lost a lot of veteran members of congress -- -- -- the latest in it. Listen maybe ten or so casualties -- veteran members of congress who lost primaries. Because of the the energy that's out there in the grassroots. We have a -- like that on the other side it's it we saw maybe some similarities. Toward the end of the Bush Administration with opposition to the Iraq War Joseph Lieberman essentially kicked out of his own party over that. But that went away we're seeing now just continue to rage in the Republican side. -- going to hear from cancer and just a short time but quickly give us a rundown who's on the short list here we know that cancer will be stepping down just the timing of it. Sure yet know the number three house Republican Kevin McCarthy of California popular well liked that kind of a good sure loser inside the conference. A good got kind of chamber of commerce type Republican viewed as someone -- -- close to speaker Boehner and majority leader cancer. Another one that there's a lot of buzz around now is congressman -- -- ruling Texas he's got a little bit stronger roots. Inside the inside the conservative wing on the financial issues and such he's someone that is seen is maybe someone they can bring together some Tea Party elements. We're also -- talk -- Pete Sessions who. Recently ran the campaign arm to some good effect on the Republican side he's also from the state of Texas and in in now and a very safe district up for reelection. But I think there's also going to be talk about someone who truly represents the tea party conference. There's of there's a group of you know anywhere between thirty and fifty members of the house who consider themselves strong Tea Party years -- don't want their voice heard so unless they coalesce behind one of these other candidates. You can easily see that support going to. A big block behind someone who's going to say look we have stop in new order here and it's not enough to just say we're -- it was so when we need someone is a true believer for the cause. And with McCarthy and sessions and some of the others in contention here are -- that a contenders here give an idea of what each one would bring to the party into the table. I ending with. -- would bring continuity for the leadership team right now that this is obviously a shock that is reverberating across. These numbers offices today yesterday and I think McCarthy would say OK we just want to get past that initial shock I think canceling. We're we're seeing we're seeing the majority leader step up to the microphone now. We are thank you and let's take this live Eric Cantor. First -- I just want to talk a little bit about. What happened last night remember going forward you know growing up. In the -- faith. You know I grew up when -- he -- -- -- a lot in the old testament. And you learn a lot about individuals setbacks. But you also read -- -- learned that each setback is an opportunity. And that there's always optimism for the future. And mom may have had -- suffered a personal setback last night. I couldn't be more optimistic about the future of this country. I couldn't you know I'm honored that I've had the privilege to serve and represent the people of Virginia's seventh district. You know people often -- what is wrong with this town. But I want to remind you of what's right you know I've had the honor to -- with so many very distinguished colleagues. You know these are the people who fly across the country every single week. Trying to do it they can to help their constituents live a better life. And these -- members on both sides of the I can tell you I have been more than honored to serve. As a part of the Republican conference -- service their majority leader of the last several years. My colleagues and I are also admirably served. By a tremendous group of staff. Who put in tireless hours with the same noble intentions. Of trying to help. The constituents of -- live about a life. These staffers are the backbone of this institution and I'm proud of gotten to know them and their families and actually called them part -- -- I also like to recognize the sergeant at arms the capitol police and in particular the dignitary protection division. Who I've come to know personally. And I've gotten to know they're often unheralded services. That really are -- -- enough and it's been honored to be in their company. -- discuss had been a privilege to get to know so many thousands. Tens of thousands. Constituents have neighbors who make up. The community. Of the greater Richmond area. In -- Richmond Virginia as a special place that I called home my entire life. And as I know that some of you -- my friends in the press corps hands on me there recently. But I encourage everyone to make visits -- You know we house Republicans have made some tremendous strides over the past few years. We thought to allow every child regardless of their zip -- zip code the ability to go to the school of their choice. And to receive equality education. We prioritize medical research and innovation. And have led the way it's an unprecedented area. -- of technology and its breakthrough. We force a reduction in spending in Washington. In consecutive years for the first time since the Korean War. And we thought to protect people from losing their insurance or facing higher health care costs due to obamacare. We passed bill after bill that would increase -- come. And reduce costs for working middle class American families. Now some people -- Washington gets nothing done. Well there's a stack of bills sitting in the senate -- shows. House Republicans do get things done we get a lot done. And our priority is building an America that works for the middle class families who are struggling in this country. But there is more work to do. Conservatives have solutions they can help alleviate the middle class squeeze. And provide opportunity to all regardless of their circumstance and life. And I'll continue to fight for each and every American's. Who's looking to better themselves and help their families by pursuing the American dream. While not be on the ballot in November I'll be a champion for conservatives across the nation. Who are dedicated to preserving liberty and providing opportunity. Truly what divides. Republicans pails in comparison. To what divides. Us as conservatives. From the left and their Democratic. Party. I hope that all Republicans will put minor differences aside and help elect a Republican House and senate. So that we may all benefit from a proper check and balance that leaves our nation more secure. More prosperous. And -- The United States of America is the greatest gift to -- time. And I'm confident that our nation will overcome every struggle exceed every challenge. And share the message of freedom prosperity and happiness. To all. Liberty seeking people around the world for decades to come. Now while I intend to serve out my term as a member of congress and the southern district of Virginia. Effective July 31. I'll be stepping down as majority leader. It is with great humility that I do so knowing the tremendous honor it has been to hold this position and with that I'm delighted to take some questions. And yeah. News last night look at a party learn from your last night. You know I'm gonna leave the political analysis deal. I know that my team worked incredibly incredibly hard they did a tremendous amount of work I'm proud of their work I'm grateful for what they did. And in the end the voters says they're from can it. In -- -- -- -- -- in the political health of others but you personally I'm sure you've done some reflecting in the past 24 hours. Do you think that maybe you spent too much time here with your job -- leader came to your rank and file and not enough -- to back off. You know I was in my district every week. So you know there is a balance between holding a leadership position in serving constituents and home. But never was there a day that I'm not put the constituents of the seventh district of Virginia -- and I'll continue to do so. Mr. -- what message do you believe that this sends about the future of immigration reform. Should it be stopped at this point. Authorities think it should go forward and would view but what if you could -- sticker -- well for first of all -- I would say again on the political piece of that. -- let's all do the analysis. But I will say that my position. On immigration has not changed -- in chains from before the election during the election or the way it is today. You know I have always said the system is program and broken in these reforms. I think it is much more desirable and practically doable if we did it one step at a time. Working towards where we have common ground and believe things in common. And I don't believe in this. My way or the highway. There's -- says -- -- common ground at the border this common ground I would like to see the issue of the kids addressed. By those that didn't break any laws and come here. Unbeknownst to them so again. I'm I've always said that there should be and is common ground if you would just allow ourselves to work together -- Who do you want to succeed -- and how divisive will the election he within your conference. Well. I don't know who it is that will actually be running I can tell you that if my dear friend and colleague Kevin McCarthy does decide to run. I think he'd make an outstanding majority leader. And will be backing him with -- full support. Pictures of a local lot of a lot of focus has been has been on the public politics and policy such people are wondering what this means for some things like. The export import bank -- you touched on immigration and and some other things that are -- Is this sort of the end of the legislating -- this congress or do you think if congress can still get those big things done. We've -- to -- you know obviously this month and next we are very soul on the floor with appropriations -- that my team in the committees are working on. We have got CFTC. Authorization and we've got some energy bills. That I don't speak to bringing down costs for Americans who were. Facing this summer driving season we've got a full set of bills -- probably got another group of human trafficking bills. To be done the chairman. The house financial services committee I believe has announced a markup on the tree a bill. We'll look to do that this summer. There's a lot of things in motion so yes we will continue. To work and hopefully the senate will reciprocate. So that we can get to work in the American people done. -- Far from that are about you know it's all politics is local here -- lost your race a lot of people gonna try to read broader things and this year. But why shouldn't some Republicans be scared as -- move -- their primaries -- that you say you spent every week sometime in your district. Where they feel that they have shored up their base and they get a challenge why shouldn't somebody be running scared at this point after after an -- -- You know. Say again I think today as you've rightly suggests all politics -- There was obviously a lot of attention that was cast on our race but again I think that our members are in in good position. In their districts and -- again I'll leave the political analysis of what happened to -- -- Democrats hope you're too extreme. Conservatives say we're too compromising what advice do you have for years that's maybe we had it right somewhere in the middle. Again I. You know I think that this town should be about trying to strike common ground always. It's better -- we can agree to disagree but find. In areas which we can produce results and -- said this before and it's out talked about my wife and I almost met men now married 25 years. And believe me we don't agree on everything. And we have managed to raise our family have a wonderful marriage she -- stood by me throughout this public office stuff. And finish strong advocate for me and not always believing in everything that I believe -- but we've managed to raise our friendly -- do well. I don't think that's too unlike life I don't think it's -- on life. The legislative arena and -- -- more of -- could probably be helpful. -- -- You think -- -- says about the party's direction for sixteen some of your help colleagues are -- saying it only emboldened the Tea Party to. -- more conservative. And uncompromising Republican candidate. For so they -- -- again -- a -- similarly the political analysis of what happened yesterday all. I would say about the Tea Party remember what the acronym means taxed enough already. All of us conservatives and Republicans believe in that. And in the Tea Party first came about 2009. I believe goes largely in reaction to the tremendous -- on the part of the Obama administration with the stimulus. Obamacare Dodd-Frank -- attempt to cap and trade in the house. And the country. Rose up and said enough is enough so I do believe that come what we have in common as Republicans. Is a tremendous amount of commitment to a better -- smaller government and greater opportunity. And growth for everybody. And the difference is that we may have or slight and pale in comparison to the differences we have with the left. And those expressing support for liberalism and -- more expensive government. -- you have -- -- elections on July and I'm sorry June 19 yourself stepping down July 31. Did you actually have a leadership -- how -- that only create more. Again I think you have to speak to the speaker. About the timing of the leadership elections and I was say that. We've got a very busy -- period -- announced ever since the beginning of the year. We've got a lot on the floor my team has been heavily involved with the committees in drafting legislation and making sure that we can run the floor. And be expeditious and legislative process so we look forward very productive in. He's you don't wanna -- political lineup announcements about personal -- Me to do kind of look at the -- before you went to sleep just slightly less that how to that let that happen. No because I really do believe that -- we did everything we should I'm very -- proud of my team on the ground in Richmond for all they did. -- there was a a tremendous. An outpouring. -- support on all sides and I you know again I just came up short and the voters elected -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Well again that is probably between my wife and me. And we'll be looking -- to see. -- how I can best serve how I can best be a part of what we really have been about here with the agenda called an America that works. Remember what is premised upon. The notion that conservative solutions a personal responsibility. Limited government more liberty. Can produce the results and solve so many of the problems that the American people have been facing. In an Obama economy under the Obama administration so thank you all very much. You've been listening to Eric Cantor giving its first speech -- concession speech and a loss. Two Virginia newcomer David -- we want to bring back in Rick Klein to give us an idea about what he heard. It was interesting to hear cancer did what we what was your take on this. -- he invited you on the press. To dive -- so I guess we should do it. Look he he's clearly shaken and rattled by this -- is trying acting today to insure as much of an orderly transition as possible. His point that nothing changes about the policy agenda in congress is not correct -- can compete correct from his perspective but his perspective is that when it matters anymore. Is going to be a new majority leader and there's going to be a new tone starting next week that I think -- going to change. The the pace of legislation. As I mentioned earlier immigration reform not going to happen as a whole raft of other things that are probably not gonna happen. This is going to -- a chill across Capitol Hill about the possibility of passing anything substantive without having to worry about a backlash. Lots of members of congress lots of party analysts and strategists and pollsters and I've talked to they are very very concerned about what happened yesterday and -- -- to the threat. So I think we heard. Mr. Kantor today come out with some humility talk about the -- results and in his district he -- that he is not gonna run for reelection and all that you'll be leaving his post. As majority leader which was the inevitable choice that he was going to be pushed if you didn't jump at this point. And a lot of talk about immigration reform where does that stand in this whole mix with Eric Cantor. Showings of some support for that in recent history. It's not gonna happen eight probably wasn't happening even -- -- one yesterday now it's definitely not what happened I -- I see no scenario where there's anything substantive that happens and immigration reform there was some talk about some piecemeal bills you heard. Speaker majority leader -- refer to that a few minutes ago talk about the doing it one step at a time. Even that is going to be just about impossible right now you've got a revitalized grass roots and conservative grassroots of the party. That is going to be selling its -- after this victory. One thing -- striking is just how how few voters it actually took it to oust him we're talking about 3540000. Voters on behalf of his opponent and that's an opted to wean. -- to topple a giant for the first time in American history the house majority leader. Loses a primary election. And end up -- politics and is gonna take a while to see the fallout we're gonna see it during the primary season were also the -- -- the legislating season which is going to be a lot shorter. And certainly cancer was very staunch in his believes he said he will continue to follow that line. He says he hasn't changed in those beliefs so what changed with Virginia voters. I 52 pieces of analysis -- worthwhile thinking about here one is the the idea of losing touch with his district and you heard. That question asked pretty directly to him and he said look I went back to Richmond all the time and I always thought about Richmond that was not the perception -- inside the Republican Party enrichment about a month ago. -- he was at a Republican Party event. In his district he got -- there that should have been a bright red warning sign to him it is team that something was amiss. -- internal polls had him -- well they shouldn't picking up on the fact that there was a lot of excitement among people that are not. That traditional voters huge turnout. I yesterday far more than during the presidential primary in Virginia just two years ago so something was going on on the ground and people were motivated to vote against Eric -- -- more than they -- to motivated to vote for him. He spent five million dollars in his -- his opponent. I spent out of the little more than -- 100000 dollars so it wasn't about the ability get your message out one other thing I think -- he may -- he missile -- learned some of the the the lessons of previous years that he's been a lot of his money attacking his primary opponent is as the primary opponent that had no money himself so he wasn't out there. Rather -- championing himself and his own conservative credentials he was. He was out there attacking someone -- building that person -- Because he was viewed as a as a legitimate threat but -- I think that's a major factor and that I think he's just. His is association. With leadership in the Republican Party it's toxic. And when you have small turnout primaries where people are paying a lot of attention can be fatal to a political career that's what happened yesterday. And -- you talked about the numbers of people that came out to vote 3040000. People and the money that was spent. Big disparity in the -- numbers give us an idea does that signal anything about elections in terms of how much money people can spend and that it doesn't make a difference in some of these races. You know I think we're at a point of of almost party parity when it comes to money -- -- big money what matters as motivation. And that's SE a lesson that's going to do pretty well for Republicans this fall if we think history's any guide. Democrats are much better about voting on presidential years Republicans in mid term years so one of the things that Republicans have gone for the probably the biggest thing. Is that they're going to be more voted motivated this all the -- -- we saw that in micro sense. And in a way to Eric Cantor. Obviously regrets very much in this district yesterday's primary in the Richmond area of Virginia we're gonna see it in a very macro sense -- 435 house races across the country. In thirty something senate races mostly or are -- Democrats this anymore turf than Republicans it is the Republican side. The the frustration after six years of the Obama White House there's going to be a lot of folks who feel like you did the. And Rick of course we just saw the public face that Republicans are putting on this laws and give me an idea what you think and what -- hearing is going on behind the scenes and what we can expect in the next week. This still a shock is only 24 hours old -- nobody saw this coming. So -- -- -- over the next week is a lot of internal policy and any inside the Republican conference it's all about the 200 some -- House Republicans who make up the conference they get to -- this decision and it's a little like student council. A lot of personal pieces of it -- so and so you know. Sits at my table at lunch someone so -- -- money for me in my district -- it was very helpful. On this FISA legislation Lester a lot of those personal -- lot of friends to -- a lot of friends and a lot of alliances start to emerge you'll see blocs of voters that are delivered you can see a lot of horse trading I think is likely that we'll see Tea Party candidate commercial control some bloc of votes. Who advocates want to I -- his interest in the heat he immediately today cancer. -- put his support behind Kevin McCarthy whose house Republican whip that would be orderly transition choice to go from number three spots in the now we've got to be vacant number to a spot. But that is not going to be something that sits well with a good portion of the Republican conference that sees a less American interest -- that does not include. Elevating someone else in the leadership team so I think that's that the fight -- joined and I think Eric -- -- -- just try to squelch what could be another mini rebellion inside the house Republican. Conference right now we'll see it all play out Rick Klein thanks for joining us and giving your analysis honest. Thank you this has been an ABC news digital special reports keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news that. And star in this story for 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.