Eric Cantor just announced that he is quitting his House seat on August 18. The remainder of his term is likely to be filled by a special election held on the same day as the election for the next term. It’s almost certain that Dave Brat, the Republican firebrand who beat Cantor in the primary, will win both and take office immediately after November 4.
Why did Cantor quit? There are three reasons, and Larry Sabato notwithstanding, “generosity” to his successor isn’t one of them.
1) He’s given up on the lame duck session.
The last week of this legislative session has been no fun whatsoever for House Republicans, and there’s no sign the lame duck session is going to be any better. Nothing of any significance is going to get passed, and it’s all just going to be another succession of sordid, thankless compromises that will just get him criticized from all sides. So why stick around for that? Let the new guy deal with it, and maybe leave a note reminding him to be careful what he wishes for.
2) Cantor has checked out.
For at least the past ten years—after surviving his first couple of terms in office—Cantor’s whole focus has been on clawing his way up through the House Republican leadership. The fact that he was more interested in them than in voters back in the 7th District is what lost him the election. So now that his dreams of one day becoming Speaker of the House are dashed, where’s his motivation?
And that leads us to the final reason.
3) To start the lobbying ban clock five months early.
The House bars former members from lobbying for one whole year. So by quitting early, Cantor can move into his new K Street digs in August of 2015 instead of January 2016. Five months’ worth of extra money really adds up at the rate he can expect to make. After all, if you’re going to spend the rest of your life making obscene sums as a lobbyist, you want the rest of your life to begin as soon as possible.
So on behalf of the 7th District, let me bid Eric Cantor goodbye—and good riddance.