US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), leaves the podium at the conclusion of a news conference on June 11, 2014.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

RNC Chair Reince Priebus downplays Eric Cantor’s loss

Updated

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus downplayed House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor’s shocking primary loss on Sunday, arguing that the loss was a local issue and not an indication that the Republican Party is divided.

Cantor lost to tea party challenger Dave Brat, who portrayed the Virginia congressman as an out-of-touch moderate who favored amnesty for illegal immigrants and garnered support from staunch conservatives like radio host Laura Ingraham.

“I don’t think it’s divided at all,” Priebus said on CBS’ Face the Nation, according to The Huffington Post. “You have districts that are 85 percent Republican, and more than one Republican wants to be congressman, and in some cases more than one person wants to be a senator.”

Republicans have denied party division on immigration reform, pointing to South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s primary win, despite the fact that Graham helped draft and voted for comprehensive immigration reform.

“There is consensus that immigration system is broken, but how to fix it is another issue,” Priebus said on the show. 

Priebus suggested that Cantor’s House leadership role hurt him.

“It takes you out of your district, and pretty soon that good work you’re doing nationally becomes liability locally,” he said. “I think it’s a local issue.”

Priebus may have more than just Cantor’s Virginia race on the mind. On Saturday, former RNC chair Michael Steele said Cantor would be an attractive choice for the GOP to take Priebus’ job.

“There’s a lot of interest in Eric Cantor serving as national chairman of the RNC – Republican National Committee,” Steele said on msnbc’s “Up with Steve Kornacki.” “That cycle is going to be so important across the board and Cantor’s network and his ability to lead–in fact, I think he’d be interesting because he started dialogues on poverty and some other issues that were sort of outside of what Republicans traditionally have talked about. So, he could bring a very interesting voice into that space.”

Eric Cantor and Reince Priebus

RNC Chair Reince Priebus downplays Eric Cantor’s loss

Updated