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The Race To Replace Eric Cantor As Majority Leader Has Already Begun

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WASHINGTON -- Eric Cantor's shocking defeat in Virginia's 7th District primary on Tuesday caused the biggest shakeup in House leadership since the GOP retook the chamber in 2010. And by Wednesday morning, Republicans were already throwing their hats into the race for majority leader -- a role sources said Cantor will have to relinquish soon.

Among those eying the post are GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas), sources told The Huffington Post. Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he had already received calls from several Republicans positioning themselves for the role of majority leader.

"I don't want to be saying anything critical of Eric today. Again, he's a friend. He's going to have to decide what he's going to do," King said. "I will say, during the night I was getting texts and emails from all the people who say they want to run.

King demurred when asked to identify names, but hinted he'd heard from members across the entire GOP spectrum. "I'm just saying I got them. Already, the campaigns are beginning," he said. "You're going to see different wings of the party running. It's going to be different wings of the conservative movement."

"I hope it's not the Ted Cruz types," he added.

A somber-looking House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) emerged from his office Wednesday but declined to answer any questions about Cantor. "Nothing, nothing, nothing," is all Boehner would offer before walking into the House chamber.

Republicans will meet in a closed-door session in the afternoon.

Leadership is typically elected at the start of a new Congress. Since a majority leader hasn't been defeated since the position was created in 1899, a special vote will be scheduled once Cantor steps down.

As McCarthy reaches for a higher rung on the ladder, his whip position will become vacant. Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) are both said to be vying for the number three spot, according to GOP sources.

Elections for a new leadership team could come as early as next week. If conservatives such as Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) remain on the outside, a leadership team of Boehner and any of those running would be necessarily weak. "This is just the first round. I don't expect the uncertainty to stop," said one GOP operative, suggesting that the real battle will come in January 2015, at the start of the new Congress.

Cantor lost to economics professor Dave Brat, who earned 56 percent of the vote to Cantor's 44 percent. The majority leader was blindsided by his loss, after his own internal polling had shown him holding a 34-point lead over Brat, a tea party-backed candidate with little name recognition. He will face Democrat Jack Trammell in the fall.

UPDATE: 3:50 p.m. -- Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) confirmed that she will remain in her position as GOP conference chair amid speculation that she may want to move up the ladder.

"After much encouragement from my colleagues, conversations with my family, and many prayers, I have decided to remain Conference Chair at this time," McMorris Rodgers said in a statement provided to HuffPost. "I look forward to continue leading my colleagues and building on our successes to introduce a culture of innovation to Capitol Hill, improve the image of House Republicans, and unite our entire Conference behind conservative solutions that serve people in every corner of America."

McMorris Rodgers rose to the national stage earlier this year when she delivered the official GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

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