Defeated at the polls in a major primary upset, Rep. Eric Cantor said he’ll vote for the man who beat him, come November’s general election.
The No. 2 House Republican also told CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, guest host on Sunday’s “State of the Union,” that he’s “not ready to close out any options right now” on running for public office in the future.
Cantor, who was heavily favored to win the GOP primary, lost last week to underfunded political novice Dave Brat, a college professor, in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. Brat’s win in the Richmond-area campaign has injected new energy into tea party efforts this year.
Asked by Bash if he’ll vote for Brat, Cantor said “of course” he would be voting Republican.
“I want a Republican to hold this seat,” he said. “This is about making sure that we have a strong Republican majority in the House.”
The Virginia Republican said he was with his family Tuesday as the votes rolled in. Perhaps underscoring the shock of the election night results, Cantor said he called his son in New York to break the news that he’d lost, and his son initially thought he was kidding.
The pollster for Cantor’s campaign, John McLaughlin, had the majority leader up 34 points prior to election night. Cantor lost by 10 percentage points.
“I think the obvious is I came up short in terms of number of votes,” Cantor said when asked about the discrepancy.
Cantor later added: “I don’t have any regrets, you know, because I remain focused on the mission that I’m about.”
And despite the huge upset, he remained decidedly firm on not offering a personal analysis of his loss, repeating multiple times that he’s “looking forward.”
But what does that mean?
Asked by Bash if he’s considering running for public office again — possibly for governor of Virginia — Cantor left all options on the table, saying that he and his wife, Diana, are still discussing what the future will hold.
Brat ran a campaign focusing heavily on his conservative Christian values. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, said he doesn’t think his faith was a factor in his primary loss.
“I don’t even want to impute that to anybody,” he said. “I knew that I’m going to continue to try and work with the lessons that I’ve learned from my early years in Hebrew school, learning about the Old Testament and much greater leaders than I with personal setbacks, but always focused on being optimistic about the future.”
Cantor, who was thought to be a likely successor to John Boehner for the speaker position, said last week he would step down as House majority leader, triggering a scramble among conservatives to replace him. Boehner has since reaffirmed his intention to remain speaker.
In announcing his decision to step down, Cantor gave his full-throated support to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy should he run. Cantor said McCarthy “would make an outstanding majority leader.”