Updated 10:14 p.m. | The White House looked to spin the shocking loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Tuesday night , as President Barack Obama tries to salvage what appears to be sinking hopes for an immigration overhaul Tuesday night.
In a pair of tweets, two top Obama advisers, Dan Pfeiffer and David Simas, took solace in the victory of Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in a crowded Republican primary even though Graham was a key backer of the Senate immigration overhaul that Cantor had derided as "amnesty" as he sought to fend off a tea party challenger in his Virginia primary.
Cantor's problem wasn't his position on immigration reform, it was his lack of a position. Graham wrote and passed a bill and is winning big — Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) June 11, 2014
Two GOP candidates on immigration. @GrahamBlog clear and principled pro-reform position -> wins. @EricCantor takes both sides -> loses. — David Simas (@Simas44) June 11, 2014Backers of immigration reform also ripped Cantor for trying to have both sides of the immigration issue and plan to press on.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., also pointed to Graham as a ray of hope on immigration and for the GOP.
"Tonight’s election shows the Republican Party has two paths it can take on immigration," he said in a statement. "The Graham path of showing leadership and solving a problem in a mainstream way, which leads to victory. Or the Cantor path of trying to play both sides, which is a path to defeat. Cantor’s defeat does not change the fundamental fact that Republicans will become a minority party if they don’t address our broken immigration system.”
But there's no doubt that immigration was at the center of the campaign to defeat Cantor. Of note, another Obama adviser, Valerie Jarrett, had recently pointed to the end of primary season as opening a narrow window for immigration . Privately, many Democrats and immigration advocates had eyed a Cantor win Tuesday as the starting point for an immigration sprint.