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Eric Cantor Slams The Tea Party And Trump At Length In Overseas Interview

Cantor says Donald Trump and members of the Tea Party are not conservatives, but "radical populists."

Posted on October 22, 2015, at 8:01 a.m. ET

BBC

Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor slammed the Tea Party and his party's current presidential frontrunner in a lengthy and, at times, combative interview with the BBC this week.

"I would not say Donald Trump is reflective of the Republican Party, he's not a conservative. A lot of the Tea Party issues out there and the agenda that they are pursuing, they're more populist radicals than they are conservatives," Cantor said on BBC show Hardtalk.

"Real conservatives are conservatives who believe in progress through incremental progress and a temperament that is befitting of a conservative. Not a revolutionary, and that's really the foundation upon which the U.S. was built and the Constitution that we have, but I do think as we get closer you'll see a lot more seriousness on the part of the voters."

Cantor, who in 2014 was unseated in his Virginia district by a grassroots conservative candidate in a shocking upset, seemed to still be in denial of his loss of conservative support and instead blamed scheming Democrats for his defeat.

"You never sort of enjoy an experience like that," Cantor said of his defeat. "But I do think there are a lot of teaching moments, but I would also say, see, there's a lot misconceptions about what but happened then to me and what's happening now within the Republican conference on Capitol Hill."

Cantor said the open primary system in Virginia allowed Democrats to strategically vote in his primary to unseat him. The New York Times and Washington Post have said the idea that so-called crossover votes doomed Cantor is a myth.

"I actually won a majority of Republicans it was just 23,000 Democrats crossed over and voted in primary because they didn't have a primary that day in the Democratic Party," said Cantor.

"There was never an instance where there was a crossover sabotage vote like that, now the political malfeasance on the part of my political team and I, was we were playing to a primary electorate that was Republican -- which we won -- it was the Democratic primary voters," Cantor said again when pressed on his defeat. "There's a lot of misperceptions."

"Again, that's fodder for press," said Cantor, sounding slightly disheartened when read lines from a column by former Republicans strategist Ron Christie saying he lost touch with his district. "Well again, if you know Virginia, and you look at what had happened, again, there's a misperception."

Cantor then pivoted to the "very small but very vocal minority" in the "so-called Tea Party."

"Somewhere along the way the expectations got to a point where it was just unreasonable," Cantor said of Tea Party demands of what Republicans could achieve with the majority in the House of Representatives.

Pushed on his defeat, Cantor again claimed he won among Republicans but lost because of Democratic sabotage.

"I won the Republicans, see this is misnomer and misperception on my particular race. I won Republican majorities," he said. "I did not and could not overcome the influx of as many Democrats that came into my primary race."

Cantor compared his loss to the current situation on Capitol Hill, saying the majority of Republicans would want to keep John Boehner (forced out by hardline conservatives) as speaker or have Kevin McCarthy replace him.

"The problem is, there are 30 to 40 members that have now decided they can block a speaker from being elected on the floor of the House -- cause you got to get 218 and Republicans margin is only 27 or 28," he said, adding there was "no question" Republicans look dysfunctional because of the "vocal minority" causing disruption.

Cantor said "things happen" when asked how it felt that he'd be in line to speaker if not for his defeat. "I've landed in a great place," he said of his current job at investment bank Moelis and Company, where he makes a reported salary of $400,000 with incentives into the millions.

Asked of Donald Trump's appeal, Cantor said it all came back to the Tea Party again.

"Here's where I think a lot of the anger and fury is coming from, go back to what I said before," Cantor said of Republicans expecting to change the law with just a majority in the House. "The radicals are out there demanding a shutdown or a default on the federal debt and so if Republicans seen and portrayed to not have delivered on what they said would have -- which is again an untrue statement," adding people like Trump, Carly Fiorina or Ben Carson could claim to be outsiders and appeal to voters by saying they had nothing to do with it.

Cantor said Trump would fade closer to the actual primary dates.

"We're going through the early silly season still, you've still got four months until we get to Iowa," he said, saying Trump's temperament wasn't "befitting" of someone who wants to be president.

"What it says is there's a small vocal minority," Cantor said when asked of why Trump was leading.

Cantor then boosted former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who he has endorsed, saying Bush had the ground game and the endorsements in the early states to win and would win once "silly season" was over.

Take a listen to the interview:

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