— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) June 11, 2014
News of Republican House Majority Eric Cantor's shocking primary election defeat at the hands of an underfunded Tea Party-supported opponent has shaken the GOP power structure in Washington, D.C. to its core. The wide-ranging effects of Cantor's ouster have yet to be fully understood, but are already becoming apparent as any fleeting chance of Congress taking up immigration reform this year vanishes, and Republicans retreat in fear from the Latino engagement strategy once considered crucial to their ongoing viability.
But as the pundits try to figure out what Cantor's defeat means for the GOP, there's a more immediate question for our local politics–does Rep. Cory Gardner regret abandoning his safe House seat for a Senate race that, at this point, pundits expect him to lose?
The question takes on added significance today as Republicans look to fill the hole created by Cantor's loss, both in November and in the much sooner House majority leadership elections–as well as fill any position vacated by Cantor's replacement as majority leader. The Washington Post takes a look at the contenders for Cantor's job:
Twenty-four hours ago, the interesting leadership race among House Republicans was scheduled for next January and was expected to feature questions about House Speaker John Boehner's future. The primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has changed that schedule dramatically. Cantor will announce Wednesday that he is resigning his leadership position effective July 31, a decision that will force a behind-the-scenes race very much into the public eye.
The fight to replace Cantor as majority leader isn't the only leadership race going on either. Assuming Rep. Kevin McCarthy runs for majority leader there will be an election for majority whip, as well.
To be sure, there are plenty of names in the hopper to compete either for Cantor's former job, or that of current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy should he move directly up to the majority leader position.
But here's something that's more or less undeniable: had Gardner chosen to remain in the House, his name would have been on that short list for House leadership. Gardner may not have been the winning choice for majority leader just yet, but he would have been a strong contender for majority whip. And given that most observers believe John Boehner's term as Speaker is coming to an end…well, who knows what might have happened? We do know that prior to making the jump to the U.S. Senate race, Gardner was a frequent mention for all kinds of upwardly mobile positions.
Where a few short months ago Gardner would have been in line for the upper tier of House GOP leadership, today he faces an uphill battle to become a junior U.S. Senator–or as Nate Silver considers 60% likely, unemployment next January.
Hindsight is 20/20, but if you think this hasn't crossed Gardner's mind today, you're kidding yourself.