Cantor Loses House Leadership: Is Immigration or Party Split to Blame?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Where Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.) once stood lies a tangled ball of political string, with at least one end of it tied to immigration. Some blame the issue — a central focus for both parties, but one that has Congress impotent — for Cantor’s loss of the House majority leader position. He himself blames a rift in the GOP for his loss, a supposed fissure in the party that’s becoming old news. Why not both?

The Tea Party has been a topic of concern for the GOP for some time now as a source of much of the ideological division on the Right, and Cantor spoke at his resignation on the need for Republicans to step beyond their “minor” differences in order to have a strong conservative Congress “so that we may all benefit from a proper check and balance,” according to The New York Times. “There is a divide within our party,” said Cantor in an interview with ABC. “I think that what we need to focus on, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to do something about, bridging this divide,” he said, also noting that his loss at the primary had come as a shock. “I don’t think anybody in the country thought that the outcome would be what it was.”

Putting forth what may be the hard cold reality Cantor needs to face, Chair of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus said he didn’t think Cantor had lost because the party was split. Instead, he told CBS, that Cantor lost because that’s what happens when so many are vying for the same position — sometimes you lose. “I don’t think it’s divided at all,” said Priebus, claiming Cantor’s problem was local. “I think you have districts that are 85 percent Republican and more than one Republican wants to be a congressman, and sometimes more than one person wants to be a senator,” he said, claiming that even when someone such as Cantor does a good job at the national level, sometimes they lose out in local elections. The one area he did admit to some disagreement though, was immigration, noting that Democrats “don’t agree on everything either,” but allowing that while “there is consensus that the immigration system is broken,” within the GOP, “how to fix it is another issue.”

Tea Party members are strongly against a pathway to citizenship, but not all Republicans feel the same — a distinction that will be of vital importance should Democrats retain some strength in Congress when all is said and done with midterm elections. While some claim that Cantor’s softer stance on immigration — that young illegals without control or understanding of their situation should not be held accountable — was the reason for his loss, while his opponent, David Brat, a member of the Tea Party, takes a much more hard line on immigration. His ads hit on Cantor’s immigration position, which cantor himself described to ABC as having “never wavered” despite attacks to the contrary.