7 Things Eric Cantor Doesn’t Want to Talk About After His Primary Loss

In his first television appearances since his election loss, the House majority leader said he’s looking forward.

National Journal
Marina Koren
June 15, 2014, 8:23 a.m.

Eric Can­tor doesn’t want to live in the past.

While the con­gress­man said that the out­come of last Tues­day’s Vir­gin­ia Re­pub­lic­an primary “ab­so­lutely” shocked him, he is look­ing for­ward. “There are 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’ll be able to look back at this, which seemed really bad at the time, may turn out to be really good,” he said.

Can­tor’s ap­pear­ances on CNN’s State of the Uni­on and ABC’s This Week on Sunday flowed like an autopsy of his de­feat Tues­day night. But Can­tor, who steps down as House ma­jor­ity lead­er on Ju­ly 31, re­peatedly pivoted away from the post­mortem and to­ward Re­pub­lic­an talk­ing points. Can­tor soun­ded less like a los­ing can­did­ate and more like someone who’s con­sid­er­ing a comeback in Wash­ing­ton.

Here are the elec­tion is­sues Can­tor didn’t want to talk about.

Why he lost:

“I really don’t think that there is any one reas­on for the out­come of the elec­tion. There’s just a lot of things that go through voters’ minds when they go through the vot­ing booth. I’ll tell you one thing. We ran my cam­paign the same way that I’m try­ing to fo­cus my work here in the de­bate in Wash­ing­ton, and that is fo­cus­ing on people who have real prob­lems.”

And why he lost by 12 points, when his poll­ster had him up by 34 points:

“I’m look­ing for­ward. A lot of folks will be in­ter­ested in that. To me, the prob­lems that people are fa­cing in this coun­try are a lot great­er than any kind of set­back — polit­ic­al set­back, per­son­al set­back that I’ve got. I really am very fo­cused on con­tinu­ing on the mis­sion that I’ve tried to be about here in Wash­ing­ton.”

Really though, what went wrong?

“I know a lot of people and a lot of polls are be­ing done to dis­sect what happened. And you know, frankly, that’s really not what I am fo­cused on now. In fact, I want to take what I have been do­ing here and the ex­per­i­ence and priv­ilege I have had of rep­res­ent­ing the people of the 7th Dis­trict of Vir­gin­ia and be able to really look to­ward the fu­ture so I can really con­tin­ue to pro­mote and be a cham­pi­on for the con­ser­vat­ive cause.”

Wheth­er he re­grets that “the per­cep­tion of you as a hu­man be­ing didn’t get across as much” with voters:

“Listen, I don’t have any re­grets. I re­main fo­cused on the mis­sion that I’m about. I’ve been so honored to rep­res­ent the people of the 7th Dis­trict of Vir­gin­ia, one of the highest hon­ors of my life and then to be priv­ileged by my col­leagues to serve as ma­jor­ity lead­er.”

Wheth­er he did everything he could in his cam­paign:

“We ran a cam­paign premised on con­ser­vat­ive solu­tions that help work­ing middle-class fam­il­ies in the 7th Dis­trict of Vir­gin­ia. It’s very much the same that we’re try­ing to do here in Wash­ing­ton. You know, people are hurt­ing right now. You know, you’re say­ing that I cer­tainly have had a per­son­al set­back, but that prob­lem pales in com­par­is­on to the prob­lems that work­ing-class Amer­ic­ans are hav­ing every day.”

Wheth­er his de­feat was a vic­tory for the tea party:

“Listen, I think what we need to fo­cus on, and I’m hope­ful that I’ll be able to do something about bridging this di­vide, there is a di­vide with­in our party, and I hope it’s the way to­ward bridging that di­vide is through solu­tions. You know, we’ve got to demon­strate the con­ser­vat­ive ideas through lim­ited gov­ern­ment, per­son­al re­spons­ib­il­ity, cre­at­ing more space in the private sec­tor is the an­swer to so many work­ing middle-class people’s prob­lems right now.”

And what his loss means for the di­vides with­in the Re­pub­lic­an Party:

“Go­ing back is not what I want to do. I want to go for­ward.”

Can­tor did not rule out run­ning for of­fice again, but he seemed re­l­at­ively clear­er (though by no means ab­so­lute) about po­ten­tial job pro­spects on K Street (which, as Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Elahe Iz­adi and Bri­an Res­nick re­por­ted, would bring him a pretty penny). “I don’t think that I want to be a lob­by­ist,” he said. “But I do want to play a role in the pub­lic de­bate.”

Why he lost:

“I really don’t think that there is any one reas­on for the out­come of the elec­tion. There’s just a lot of things that go through voters’ minds when they go through the vot­ing booth. I’ll tell you one thing. We ran my cam­paign the same way that I’m try­ing to fo­cus my work here in the de­bate in Wash­ing­ton, and that is fo­cus­ing on people who have real prob­lems.”

And why he lost by 12 points, when his pollster had him up by 34 points:

“I’m look­ing for­ward. A lot of folks will be in­ter­ested in that. To me, the prob­lems that people are fa­cing in this coun­try are a lot great­er than any kind of set­back — polit­ic­al set­back, per­son­al set­back that I’ve got. I really am very fo­cused on con­tinu­ing on the mis­sion that I’ve tried to be about here in Wash­ing­ton.”

Really though, what went wrong?

“I know a lot of people and a lot of polls are be­ing done to dis­sect what happened. And you know, frankly, that’s really not what I am fo­cused on now. In fact, I want to take what I have been do­ing here and the ex­per­i­ence and priv­ilege I have had of rep­res­ent­ing the people of the 7th Dis­trict of Vir­gin­ia and be able to really look to­ward the fu­ture so I can really con­tin­ue to pro­mote and be a cham­pi­on for the con­ser­vat­ive cause.”

Whether he regrets that "the perception of you as a human being didn't get across as much" with voters:

“Listen, I don’t have any re­grets. I re­main fo­cused on the mis­sion that I’m about. I’ve been so honored to rep­res­ent the people of the 7th Dis­trict of Vir­gin­ia, one of the highest hon­ors of my life and then to be priv­ileged by my col­leagues to serve as ma­jor­ity lead­er.”

Whether he did everything he could in his campaign:

“We ran a cam­paign premised on con­ser­vat­ive solu­tions that help work­ing middle-class fam­il­ies in the 7th Dis­trict of Vir­gin­ia. It’s very much the same that we’re try­ing to do here in Wash­ing­ton. You know, people are hurt­ing right now. You know, you’re say­ing that I cer­tainly have had a per­son­al set­back, but that prob­lem pales in com­par­is­on to the prob­lems that work­ing-class Amer­ic­ans are hav­ing every day.”

Whether his defeat was a victory for the tea party:

“Listen, I think what we need to fo­cus on, and I’m hope­ful that I’ll be able to do something about bridging this di­vide, there is a di­vide with­in our party, and I hope it’s the way to­ward bridging that di­vide is through solu­tions. You know, we’ve got to demon­strate the con­ser­vat­ive ideas through lim­ited gov­ern­ment, per­son­al re­spons­ib­il­ity, cre­at­ing more space in the private sec­tor is the an­swer to so many work­ing middle-class people’s prob­lems right now.”

And what his loss means for the divides within the Republican Party:

“Go­ing back is not what I want to do. I want to go for­ward.”

Can­tor did not rule out run­ning for of­fice again, but he seemed re­l­at­ively clear­er (though by no means ab­so­lute) about po­ten­tial job pro­spects on K Street (which, as Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Elahe Iz­adi and Bri­an Res­nick re­por­ted, would bring him a pretty penny). “I don’t think that I want to be a lob­by­ist,” he said. “But I do want to play a role in the pub­lic de­bate.”

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