November 12th, 2009
12:47 PM ET
9 years ago

Cantor's sights set higher than Congress?

Cantor's sights set higher than Congress?

Cantor's sights set higher than Congress?

Washington (CNN) - As Republicans swept the top three offices in Democratic-leaning Virginia last week, Rep. Eric Cantor was in Richmond, shaking hands with supporters and rallying GOP troops as he proclaimed, "The Republican resurgence begins tonight."

He was also taking notes.

In an election that Republicans claim is an indicator that the American electorate is unnerved with the sweeping changes President Obama and congressional Democrats are making in Washington, the GOP sees an opportunity in the 2010 congressional midterm elections, where one in three Senate seats and every seat in the House of Representatives will be on the ballot.

"We're going to take the model that worked in Virginia, so we can unite our party and begin to appeal to independents with solutions that affect our lives," Cantor told reporters in a Richmond ballroom shortly before Bob McDonnell was projected to be the state's next governor.

Jumping from one interview with a television reporter to the next, Cantor showed why as the No. 2 House Republican he is his party's most visible congressman. Cantor, a lawyer, is nearing his tenth year in Washington, almost 18 years after he left his family's real estate business to enter politics as a Virginia state legislator.

Now the House minority whip, Cantor is tasked with keeping his party together on votes, a job often described - on both sides of the aisle - as herding cats.

Cantor is also one of his party's biggest fundraisers, which earns him loyalty from fellow GOP members who help him deliver results such as the unanimous House Republican vote against Obama's stimulus package in February and a near-unanimous vote last weekend against a Democratic health care reform bill. Only one Republican sided with Democrats.

The future of his party, battered after two elections that have grown the Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress and put a Democrat in the White House, depends on returning to Republican roots of fiscal discipline, Cantor says. And, he adds, the GOP message must be positive.

"It really is about that optimism that the people are looking for again. And what the people are hearing out of Washington is not that," he said outside the Virginia state house in Richmond.

Cantor says the key to winning over coveted independents is convincing them Republicans have real-world solutions to kitchen table issues, "because people are afraid. They're afraid that their futures won't be anywhere near where their pasts were. They're afraid that their children will not have as good of a life as they had."

Democrats have few kind words for Eric Cantor as he fashions his message for a Republican comeback, except for one: his wife.

Diana Cantor hails from a staunchly Democratic family in Florida and met Cantor on a blind date while both were living in New York, where he was earning a master's degree from Columbia University. After 20 years of marriage and three children, Cantor still holds out hope that he can politically convert his wife.

"I think I'm working her over," he says. On fiscal issues, perhaps, but not on hot button social issues, the anti-abortion Republican admits.

"She is very much on different sides of some issues than I am," he says. Cantor looks younger than his 46 years and is a tireless politician, frequently texting with his staff late at night. He's the only Jewish Republican in the House, even keeping kosher. He surrounds himself with a driven staff that effectively furthers his profile. But pressed on his future plans, Cantor is modest, shrugging off questions about whether he will run for President in 2012.

What about 2016? "I'm not running for president," Cantor says. Privately, though, even his Republican colleagues suspect he has set his sights very high.

At the moment, Cantor's work is far from finished in the House, a fact made clear as he wraps up a phone call with one of his deputy whips just hours before the House vote on health care reform.

"It's likely we could stop this bill from moving forward," Cantor says as he strategizes about how to convince a few Democrats in right-leaning districts to vote no alongside Republicans.

But as he hangs up the phone, he sighs, perhaps exhausted by the futility of being at an 81-vote disadvantage. Hours later, the bill passes, even though 39 Democrats join Republicans in voting against it.

It is a tough spot to be in, even for the disciplined and ambitious Cantor.

Filed under: Eric Cantor
soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. D. Tree

    Mr. Cantor, if Republicans continue to offer their outdated ideology and no positive agenda to the voters, your "resurgence" is nothing more than a fantasy!

    November 12, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. ~~ July ~~ ( Working HARD to make TX Blue )

    "The Republican resurgence begins tonight."

    'resurgence' ... what now he is taking notes from the taliban?

    November 12, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Jilli


    Well, I have to say the one thing republicans excell at is propping up empty suits, (see bush, palin, romney et. al) and Can'tor certainly fits that bill.

    November 12, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. Rush the boyscout quitter

    Canter is a joke,he couldnt make dog catcher in my town,hahaha

    November 12, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. Death Assurance Companies

    Canter is as smart as a fifth grader,but not much more than that.

    November 12, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. disgusted

    No one who is a member of the C Street Family has any business in government. Their oath to uphold the constitution means nothing.

    November 12, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. DJ

    Most visible at checking his blackberry for personal messages during the President's State of the Union while his lunatics wave papers and shout? Cantor is a complete tool and is useless.

    November 12, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Moderate Democrat

    As a democrat I will admit that the energy behind the republicans is unsettling, but it very well may be blown out of proportion as well by the media.

    Democrats can not become complacent, we MUST hit the voting booths come 2010 and elect even MORE democrats, democrats that will move this country forward rather then hold it hostage as the Republican Party has, and always will do.

    We can not blame the republicans if we fail to give Obama the votes he needs in Congress and the Senate. We asked for him to make these changes, now we must back him with like minded democrats to get the job done once and for all.

    Let's say NO to the do nothing but complain and cry republicans. We can not name a SINGLE policy that benefits the average american that the republicans have EVER been FOR, unless we go all the way back to Lincoln, which was the one and only good republican EVER.

    November 12, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. virginia nielsen

    Now I understand why his wife is a DEMOCRAT !!! She probably has an open mind ... because Cantor, as all the Republicans, are still "stuck" in the 50's and everybody else, besides the hard and narrow minded right wings, in 2009 !!! Wake up "real americans" !!!

    November 12, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. TangledThorns

    Cantor is more qualified than the current empty suit in the WH. I think he'd make a good senator though.

    November 12, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  11. Garland

    Hahahahaha! Yawn, he's such a bore. I can't imagine him a President. I'm an Independent and don't have any desire for anyone in the Republican to lead my country.

    November 12, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. Vets4Obama

    When Republicans win, Americans die, and our military gets abused and neglected! Proven by the endless opposition to better veteran benefits by the GOP.

    They have ALWAYS opposed treating our troops better when they get home. Don't take my word for it, look it up, republicans have CONSISTANTLY opposed veteran benefits. It's a staple of their political agenda to take our men and women of the armed services for granted.

    If you care for america, you will vote democrat...the only party that truely works for ALL americans, rather then a select few white rich people.

    November 12, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    who is this and how is he related to Eddie Cantor?

    November 12, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  14. Brian in California

    The one thing that will ensure republican successes in 2010 will be if Democrats do not get out there and VOTE!! This was the case in those recent elections in Virgina and New Jersey. Democrats did not show up in the numbers they did in 2008 and they will lose seats in Congress if they do not get out there and participate on election day and that will end the progress that is being made now. Think about it people. Hold the line and make your voices heard by voting in 2010. .

    November 12, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Pleae keep talking

    Please keep talking - the more you do the more it helps the Dems. Yes we're scared, but if you think the country thinks the teabagger GOPs are a reasonable alternative you're nuts.

    November 12, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. A. Smith

    And Big Oil and Big Pharma trot out another of their puppets, LOL if the Republican party leaders weren't so pathetic, America could unabashedly laugh out loud.

    A. Smith

    November 12, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  17. bcords

    so lt me get this straight. he keeps kosher yet he will stand in front of a crowd which holds up signs of obama as hitler and even worse a sign that shows the bodies of the aushwitz dead and keep that grin on his face like he is the king???? another disgusting republican!!!

    November 12, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Patrick

    He looks like that guy Miles on Murphy Brown, who coincidentally played a corrupt and inept Congressional aid in the Eddie Murphy movie, The Distinguished Gentleman.

    November 12, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  19. New Father

    It must be hard being a liberal. I mean the best 12 years were with Repubs in charge of spending ie Congress 94'-06'. I'm sorry that unemployment was under 5% and there was 7 million more jobs before the liberal agenda began in 07'. Atleast Nobama12 is having a job summit with SEIU or bankrupted California, UAW bankrupted GM, and teachers union that has helped keep America ranked near the basement. The good news is he is finally admitting the stimulus was a failure, so maybe there is HOPE.

    November 12, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  20. tommygunn

    He would be a clean look. I hope Mr Cantor doesn't get HI-JACKed by the CONSERVATIVE TEA PARTY party.

    Right now it appears he is 33% there....

    Come on GOP separate from the CONSERVATIVE crazy's and be the party I believe in.....

    November 12, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  21. katiec

    Another radical religious right republican running for president.
    These politicians hide behind the Bible while spewing hate, anger,
    unrest, lies, distortions and hypocrasy.
    They talk about fiscal conservatism while almost destroying our
    country these last eight years.
    Their goals are party first, winning at any cost, maintaining the status quo which is sacrificing the American people while ensuring big business remain in total power and destroying, obstructing any policy regardless of its merits.
    They are well on their way to becoming our country's most dangerous domestic terrorists.

    November 12, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  22. Matt

    A man who doesn't believe his wife should vote, work, or be able to control her own body. What a prize.

    November 12, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. Bob in VA

    Wait until Cantor runs into the GOP glass ceiling for non-christians, non-whites, and women. The poor sap.

    November 12, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. JR

    Save it, they will never resurge.

    November 12, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Dave

    The whole Republican agenda is to destroy the middle class in America.
    They throw up window dressing to attract voters, like, abortion, gun control and old fashioned values but if any of those issues came between them and making the rich richer those issues would be abandoned in a heartbeat.
    Wake up middle class America the Republicans want to destroy your way of life!

    November 12, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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