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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript: Eric Cantor


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BURNETT: Eric Cantor outraised and outspent his virtually unknown Tea Party challenger that nobody thought would win. This was just a Republican congressional primary. But Cantor lost.

So, what does this mean for the future of the GOP?

Joining me now, Republican Congressman Peter King.

Congressman, I mean, this is a pretty shocking story. This has got to -- I mean, did this just shock you when you heard it?

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: It shocked me. It shocked everyone. I'm sure it shocked Eric, too. This really came out of nowhere.

I've been in politics for a long time. But I don't think anyone sensed this coming. And it just shows how unpredictable the business is and how often politics does not always have a happy ending.

BURNETT: Do you think his step do you think from the position of house majority leader on July 31st is the right move?

KING: I think it is. Eric realized, first of all, it is a legislative agenda for the next two months and it's important that Eric manage that and get through various bills that he has already lined up. But for us to be effective going into the fall campaign, I think it is important to have it a permanent leader in there. So, I give Eric credit. He did it voluntarily, entirely on his own. I think he felt it was better for the party, for him to finish up the business that is on the table right now.

And then as we go into, you know, Labor Day and the campaign, to have a new majority leader.

BURNETT: So, do you think it's time to throw in the towel and put in the most conservative person you can possibly find in the House, since that's what the election seemed to show?

KING: No, I don't think so. I think we have to wait for the full analysis. But this is one district. We can also look at Kentucky, where Mitch McConnell won big. We can look out in Idaho when Mike Simpson beat back a challenger by a large majority.

So, again, it's a mixed. I would say that one of the problems is when you're a leader such as Eric was, part of his job is to travel all over the country. And that keeps you out of your district.

BURNETT: All right. So you're being very diplomatic here. But this morning you said you can't allow Eric's defeat to allow the Ted Cruzes and the Rand Pauls to take over the party. All right?

And Ted and Rand I'm sure are out there celebrating right now. Here is Senator Cruz earlier today.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: The voters of Virginia have spoken loudly. And I think they have expressed a sentiment that is present across the country, which is that people are frustrated. They're frustrated with politicians in Washington in both parties who aren't listening to them.


BURNETT: All right. What he said there is absolutely true, right? I mean, that's a frustration that people have. How are you going to stop a Ted Cruz and a Rand Paul from rising in power now?

KING: Well, first of all, by showing that Ted Cruz, for instance, is a fraud. Last year, he induced the Congress to shut down the government, and after they did it, he couldn't deliver at all. Basically, he said if the House shut down the government, he would be able to deliver in the Senate the ending of Obamacare. He knew from the beginning this was a fraud yet he went ahead and did it.

To me, he is dangerous to the party as Rand Paul. We have someone running around saying he is afraid that the CIA is going to be killing people in Starbucks with drones. I mean, this is -- this is not the type of leadership we need.

The Republican Party, you talk about frustration, our numbers never went lower than after Ted Cruz led the shutdown last fall. He is the worst thing that can happen to the Republican Party.

People are frustrated. These are tough times. They need honest answer, honest leadership, not the medicine man type tactics of Ted Cruz.

BURNETT: But how are you going to stop him?

KING: Well, I'm appearing with you tonight. What more can I ask? I'm curious. I mean, I think it's important for Republicans to go out and go public, go on the media and not be intimidated by these guys, and stand up to them. I'm in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, as are most Republicans and most Republicans in the House.

And we can't allow ourselves to be intimidated by people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul who want to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

BURNETT: And when you say in that tradition, am I right in translating part of what you're saying is that means you compromise, that means you do a debt deal, if you don't like the premise. But you still do some kind of a deal. That you work with the other side.

KING: You have to. I mean, basically, when you fight for your principles as hard as you can. But the American people have elected a Republican House and a Democratic Senate. Our job is to govern.

And Ronald Reagan, he certainly made compromises. He compromised with Tip O'Neill when he had to. But at the end of Ronald Reagan's eight years, the country had moved significantly in the conservative direction.

You're never going to get 100 percent. You have to be realistic and you have to be honest with the American people. What the American people are really frustrated with is false promises, and nobody makes more false promises than Ted Cruz.

BURNETT: All right. Before we go, everyone is saying part of the reason Eric Cantor lost was because he was willing to compromise on immigration reform, specifically, an issue that makes a lot of people's eyes glaze over, but there may be no more important one for this country and for economic recovery. Does the loss of Eric Cantor based on immigration reform mean that that is completely dead?

KING: I think it certainly right now is on the back burner in the short-term. But also look at Lindsey Graham's race in South Carolina. He was much more aggressive on immigration reform than Eric was, and Lindsey won very big. Again, I think it could have been unique circumstances in Eric's district.

BURNETT: All right. We're going to talk about some of those circumstances with a Democratic, try to get Democrats to vote in this and whether that's a role, coming up. Thank you very much, Congressman King. Always good to talk to you.

KING: Erin, thank you.


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