With the surprise exit of former Republican House of Representative Head Eric Cantor, the Republican party was in need of new leadership — but what form that new leadership took was of particular importance to the party at this juncture. When Cantor lost his bid for reelection, surprising many — himself included — he suggested that the loss was in part a result of internal splintering within the GOP. Such a statement was likely motivated in part by his loss to David Brat, funded by the Tea Party, which has become the divisive player in the GOP Cantor is likely referring to.
“There is a divide within our party. 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,” said Cantor to ABC, expressing his hopes that Republicans would be able to step beyond their differences in order to win a strong conservative Congress in the midterms. The campaign period for the leadership position was relatively short, a mere week in order to keep the competition from further dividing the Republican party, and ultimately resulted in the Thursday announcement of Kevin McCarthy’s win.
USA TODAY reports that representatives predict the differences in leadership will be largely in approach, with McCarthy tending towards a more relaxed front compared to Cantor. “Kevin is much different than Eric so I think you’re going to see someone who is much more jovial,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) told USA TODAY. Generally, the two are political allies and have similar stances, but on one position McCarthy isn’t likely to follow in Cantor’s footsteps — his Republican version of health care reform, which hasn’t been particularly popular within the party.
The other legislative item he’ll be watched quite closely on is immigration — a topic some feel was in part responsible for Cantor’s reelection loss; Cantor’s support of specific amnesty pathways was unpopular with some. Which makes McCarthy’s perspective on the issue that much more salient. In the past, he’s supported Rep. Jeff Denham’s (R-Calif.) citizenship pathway efforts for those immigrants who were part of the military. In 2013, Politico called McCarthy “immigration reform’s whipping boy,” in reference to the way he was being targeted by immigration reform movements who blamed him for not pushing his party for greater reform, despite the large number of immigrants in his district.