Befuddlement hit and lingered within the House GOP leadership ranks as Majority Leader Eric Cantor's election fate was unwinding on Tuesday. Cantor lost in a major upset to primary challenger Dave Brat.
Speaker John Boehner, in a statement from his office late Tuesday night, said, "Eric Cantor and I have gone through a lot together."
"He's a good friend and a great leader, and someone I've come to rely upon on a daily basis as we make the tough choices that come with governing," added Boehner, who said his thoughts Tuesday night were with Cantor, his wife Diana, and their kids.
A senior Republican leadership aide described the mood as "chaos for the leadership ranks."
"We're absolutely stunned. Honestly, we really can't believe it," said the aide, who likened it to the 2004 election defeat of Tom Daschle of South Dakota, who was Senate minority leader at the time.
Cantor on Defeat
"Given the speculation Boehner himself may decide not to run again for speaker, the idea had been out there that Cantor would simply walk into the speakership," said the aide. "But now, who the hell would be the next speaker?"—particularly, the aide added, if Paul Ryan doesn't want it, or Rep. Tom Price of Georgia isn't interested.
And there are more immediate questions—including whether Cantor would step down as majority leader right away, given the no-confidence vote of his own constituents.
"Everyone knows it was a tough race out there. But when you have all the money in the world, spend those resources—in the long run, money usually wins out," said the aide.
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