Eric Cantor, you’ve just lost your bid for an eighth term in Congress. What are you going to do next?
Though he might wish he was in a magical land — especially one where powerful incumbents never lose to no-name primary challengers — Disney World likely isn’t on Cantor’s docket come January.
The House majority leader whose primary loss last week to an unknown political novice stunned just about everyone in and outside the Beltway — including both candidates — will be out of a job next year. Cantor has ruled out a Murkowski-like write-in campaign to try to hold onto his seat, and because of Virginia’s “sore loser” law he can’t get on the ballot as a third-party candidate, even if he wanted to. So his departure from Congress in January is assured.
He will be replaced by either Dave Brat, who beat Cantor in last week’s Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th House district seat, or Democrat Jack Trammell, who secured his party’s nomination on June 8. The two face off in November’s general election.
Cantor’s next move is less clear. Chances are, though, he won’t remain unemployed for long. In announcing the day after his primary loss that he would step down as majority leader on July 31, and again in interviews later in the week, Cantor made clear he intends to stay in the game on some level.
“I really am very focused on continuing on the mission that I’ve tried to be about here in Washington,” Cantor told CNN’s State of the Union in an interview Sunday. “It’s those reform-conservative solutions that actually can be applied to people’s problems in the working middle class of this country, the poor, and for everyone.”
Among his many options, Cantor could mold those conservative solutions as a high-profile player at any number of think tanks in Washington. Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) did just that last year, leaving the Senate to take the reins at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“Given his profile as a soon-to-be-former House majority leader, he’ll be an attractive choice for some big-time interest groups and think tanks to pursue,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and associate editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.
In addition to DeMint, Cantor could take his cue from another Republican, one who, like the congressman, suffered a recent political setback.
“Take Ken Cuccinelli,” Skelley said, referring to the 2013 Republican nominee for Virginia governor. “It just came out [last week] that he’s the new president of the Senate Conservatives Fund.”
And, Skelley said, Cantor has a lot more political cache than Cuccinelli, the commonwealth’s former attorney general.
“Cantor has oodles more insider cred,” he explained. “So it’s a good bet that [he will] have his choice of a large plate of post-congressional options.”
Conservative Washington isn’t the only place Cantor has pull. As the House Republican caucus’s only Jewish member, Cantor has played a pivotal role in the party’s relationship with the Jewish and Israeli communities, a role that’s made him a key ally with Jewish organizations and leaders.
“Eric has been an important pro-Israel voice in the House and a leader on security issues,” Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in a statement. “We deeply appreciate his efforts to keep our country secure and to support our allies around the world.”
So his ties to the Jewish community naturally bring to mind the question: Might he work for an organization dedicated to Jewish causes or closer U.S.-Israeli ties?