“It should frighten everyone in leadership,” one conservative House Republican, who exchanged text messages on condition of anonymity, said shortly after Cantor’s defeat was official. “They haven’t been conservative enough. We’ve told them that for 3 years. They wouldn’t listen.”

The GOP lawmaker added: “Maybe they will listen now.”

Indeed, if Cantor’s defeat offers a silver lining for Boehner and McCarthy, it’s that they now have a five-month audition to convince those conservative members that they won’t be ignored any longer. Boehner’s fate may already be sealed, as earlier this year National Journal reported that between 40 and 50 members have verbally committed to electing a new speaker. But McCarthy, who is perhaps the most personally popular member of the leadership team, may have an outside shot of retaining his job as majority whip. (He may not want it now that Cantor, his best friend in Congress, has been fired.)

Asked whether Cantor’s defeat means he and his fellow conservatives will attempt to clean house and bring in an entirely new leadership team, the House Republican answered: “Not necessarily. The policies are what count. Not the people.”