Outgoing Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that he was “absolutely” shocked by his primary loss this week to Tea Party challenger David Brat, a defeat that has sent shockwaves through Washington as the man seen as a possible heir to Speaker John Boehner was dethroned.
“Absolutely…I don’t think anybody in the country thought that the outcome would be what it was. And, you know, I just am a believer, as I said that night, and subsequently, that there are some things that happen for a reason and we may not be able to really discern it now and given the perspective of time, I think we’re going to be able to look back at this, and what seemed really bad at the time may turn out to be really good,” Cantor said on “This Week.”
The 51-year-old Virginia Republican was defeated Tuesday in his 7th District Republican primary by Brat, a tea-party backed college professor at Randolph-Macon College.
During the interview with ABC News, Cantor told Karl he believed his defeat could not be attributed to his stance on immigration reform, after Karl presented him with a tweet sent by conservative Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, reading, “Earthshaking primary results in Virginia tonight. Resounding rejection of #Amnesty and support for Rule of Law. Personal regrets to Eric.”
“First of all, I don’t think there was any one particular reason why the outcome was what it was,” Cantor said. “If you think about it, there are a number of things that go through voters’ minds when they go into the voting booth. But as far as immigration is concerned, my position never wavered. I have always taken the position that I’m not for a comprehensive amnesty bill.
“I’ve always said that we ought to deal with the kids who did not break any laws and themselves came into this country, in many cases, unbeknownst to them,” Cantor said. “I’ve always said that, and it’s a principled position. And it’s one I think that offers the only plausible way forward. Now, did that infuriate folks on both sides? Sure. But it is a principled position. I think an incremental reform approach to immigration is what we need.”
As for his future in politics, Cantor — currently the only Jewish Republican in either the House or Senate — did not rule out a future run, but said he did not plan to go into lobbying. He said he would be spending time consulting with his wife of nearly 25 years on his next steps, including possibly entering the private sector.
“She and I are going to make some decisions together about how we go forward. I don’t want to close off any options right now,” Cantor said. “I’m just hopeful that I can continue to be a champion for the kinds of things that we are working on here in Washington. I believe after almost 23 years in public service, 23 plus years in public service, that I can play a role and not just in elected office obviously but in the private sector.”
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