At home and in D.C., few tears for Eric Cantor

If anyone aside from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was sad to see Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., lose his seat in a shocking primary election upset Tuesday night, they've kept that view to themselves.

But from Democrats to vocal conservative lawmakers to Cantor's constituents, many people were quick to start dancing on the majority leader's grave - or at least say he deserved what he got.

"That's too bad for him but the people have spoken. They're our bosses, they decide," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Wednesday. She had actually toned down her statement Tuesday night that called Cantor, "one of the most extreme Members of Congress" and "the face of House Republicans' extreme policies, debilitating dysfunction and manufactured crises." (The New York Times reported that an informal dinner party at her Georgetown apartment turned into a celebration upon hearing the news, as did another gathering of right-wing elites, according to Buzzfeed.)

As if chiding Cantor for his national presence, Pelosi said Wednesday, "You have to be on the ground and in your district to know."

Indeed, one narrative emerging from Cantor's Richmond-area district is that his constituents felt abandoned by their local congressman.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) heads into a last-minute Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Captiol June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. Cantor announced that he will resign his leadership position in the House of Representatives on July 31 after losing a primary race to Tea Party-backed college professor David Brat.
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

"I think Eric Cantor spent so much time playing the national scene that he forgot about the people here in Hanover," Joe Deshazo, a 62-year-old roofing contractor told CBS News. Although Deshazo said "common sense" drove him to vote for Cantor during the primary Tuesday, his heart was with challenger David Brat and he's "not dissatisfied with the outcome" of the election.

Gene Combs, a retiree who voted for Brat, said Cantor no longer comes around to see the people he's supposed to represent.

"You never see him, you can't talk to him you get in touch with," Combs lamented. "Nobody's ever seen him in Hanover County since he went to Washington."

Others in his district told CBS News that Cantor "has been there too long" or "seems to sway either way" on issues to suit his best interests at the moment.

Once upon a time voters "valued the seniority and they wanted people who were committee chairs and who were leaders in Congress," Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics told CBS News.

"I don't think voters care about that stuff anymore, particularly not in the South, and I think to a certain extent Cantor's seniority and leadership position was almost damaging to him in that he was seen as sort of this symbol of things Republicans don't really like," Kondik added.

Virginia Democratic strategist Dave "Mudcat" Saunders via a tweet, but also attributed the outcome to a "Resounding rejection of #Amnesty and support for Rule of Law. Personal regrets to Eric," a reference to Cantor's perceived support for immigration reform legislation, which he later sought to disavow.

And of course, some of the most ardent voices on the right had a field day with the news.

"Virginians made Thomas Jefferson proud tonight. Nothing wrong with tossing incumbents," conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote on Twitter, one of many satisfied and snarky messages he's written in the past 24 hours.

House Speaker John Boehner was one of the lone voices of sadness.

"Eric Cantor and I have been through a lot together. He's a good friend and a great leader, and someone I've come to rely upon on a daily basis as we make the tough choices that come with governing," he wrote.

And while Cantor may have had his share of admirers on the Hill - a former leadership aide told CBS News he was "a very popular member, with friends across the spectrum" - their voices are far from the loudest, as evidenced by reaction to the Cantor defeat on Twitter.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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