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As Sahil Kapur noted earlier, McCarthy is perceived by Tea Partiers as either equivalent to Cantor or possibly slightly more moderate. What's also notable - though geography is not everything - is that Virginian Cantor is being replaced by the Californian McCarthy. The South, and particularly Texas, is the center of gravity of the today's GOP. But two Texans fell by the wayside. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), a right-wing and Tea Party favorite, who is nevertheless respected by caucus moderates, declined to run. And Sessions got outflanked.
It's worth noting that when Republicans came to power in 1995, their leadership was one Georgian and two Texans. Before Tuesday it was one Ohioan, one Virginian and one Californian - something of an oddity in a party that has shifted in a dramatically more Southern direction in the last two decades.
As noted, geography isn't everything. Personalities, the alliances that are built on them and the simple fact that McCarthy was 'next in line' play big roles. But this is not a result likely to sate the expectations on the right spurred by Cantor's defeat.