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.”