Kevin McCarthy

California’s Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is a top contender to replace Eric Cantor (R-Virginia)

By Robert Costa
June 11, 2014

Midnight had long since passed, but the lights were still on at the Capitol, where House Republicans were already planning — and tensely arguing about — how to move ahead amid the chaos of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss.

The most immediate question is whether a humbled Cantor will step down from his powerful post or try to hold on to it for the remainder of the year. That decision will determine whether there will be a potentially divisive leadership race in the coming weeks or whether that will be postponed until after the midterm elections.

In the immediate aftermath of Cantor’s defeat, camps inside the GOP were divided, with some Cantor allies urging him to stay on and help guide the party until November, while many of his critics privately warned that if he does not resign from his post they will promptly move against him.

Associates of House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said they were telling him to quickly declare that he will stay in his position for another term and that he would like Cantor to stay on as majority leader through the end of the year, making the argument that unity and stability are critical for a House GOP in crisis.

Others close to Boehner predicted that he may say little definitive in the days ahead about his own political future as he waits to hear from House Republicans about how they would like to proceed and whether conservatives, encouraged by professor David Brat’s upset in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, decide to target him in an effort to elect an entirely new slate of House leaders.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), an easygoing Californian and former recruiter of conservative candidates, is best positioned to take Cantor’s place, regardless of when he leaves. McCarthy has a deep well of support and a light managing style that has won favor with the conference’s younger and more independent members. He was a co-author of “A Pledge to America,” the GOP’s 2010 election manifesto and seen as an able communicator. But his at times rocky experience on the floor, where he has seen some major votes fail after being whipped and some conservatives unhappy with his tactics, has raised questions about his leadership.

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