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. Clout

    Mr. Cantor forgets that the Dems took it in '08 based on the PROMISE of sweeping change. Read: his guys were in charge, America was sick of it.

    Mr. Cantor is wrong in supposing Americans are nostalgic for the party they threw out in no uncertain terms.

    We wanted change. A year later, we hardly want to change back.

    November 12, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. ED FL

    This guy is the wimpiest image of any poiltician I have seen in my 80yrs.He could not impress a bunch of cub scouts at their first meeting.. They would not get anything accomplished at a world meeting because the other countries would be laughing to much to get and serious work finished.

    November 12, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. Kevin

    This guy only represents the rich and privledged. His campaign will be well financed but he will not get elected nationally. He's another one of those politician looking to be famous instead of actually helping regular people.

    November 12, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. ART

    Eric Cantor has the personality of wood. I sometimes wonder if he is really human or an android. When he speaks on any topic its almost comical.If he has higher aspirations he has a lot of work todo,actually any Republican't right now has a lot of work to do.

    November 12, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. Kate

    If the economy, housing, job markets continue to grow even though it may not be as fast as some would will show that President Obama has been on the right track and the Republicans won't win the seats needed to make a come back.....instead the Democrats can say " Just think how much faster we could have come back, if the Republicans would have worked with us instead of being the party of NO NO NO on everything the President tried to do".......

    November 12, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. Babaganusch

    We need someone like Cantor to run for POTUS. Someone who is accountable to all the people, and just to their Democratic special interest groups and just their own caucus..

    November 12, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. hongli

    I'm totally fed-up with all the recycled wing-nuts that are trying for a place in the WHITE-HOUSE. The GOP should find their proper place in the OUT-HOUSE instead.

    November 12, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. Babaganusch

    We need someone like Cantor to run for POTUS. Someone who is accountable to all the people, and not just to their Democratic special interest groups and just their own caucus..

    November 12, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. Troubled Independent

    Obammie and the democratic congress have proven they are the biggest "jokes."

    Why do you think there is a resurgence going on? Duh!

    November 12, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. mohammed

    Eric Cantor is done his time is up, hit road jack don’t comeback

    November 12, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Ha! Don't make me choke on my spit. Eric Cantor will not get re-elected in Virginia next year. You can bet your bottom dollar on that! That's like saying Boehner is going to run for POTUS.

    November 12, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Mr. Phil

    The Repugs took a couple gorvernorships and all of a sudden there's a resurgence? Just shows how out of touch he is. Keep on telling people that they should sell off all of their possessions to pay for emergency health care, you moron. That'll take you straight to the White House.

    November 12, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. Republican'ts are so YESTERDAY

    I only have one word to say about Cantor . . . . .EWWWWWWW

    November 12, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. George

    OH my!!!! Run dems run. Cantor is a male Palin. Not sure who is the smartest.
    I think the repugs forget that they crested this mess. Obama is to undo in less than 1 year what Bush and his slugs created in 8 years. Had the supreme court not elected Bush, we would not be having this conversation. It sure shows the wisdom of our highest ranked set of attorneys.

    November 12, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "sights set higher"???

    If Cantor ever actually bothered to look up, the only thing he'd see would be the underside of Boehner's desk. Think it thru...

    The guy is a moron with a big mouth, no ideas, a no shot of winning the mindless bible-thumping automaton fundy vote.

    November 12, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  16. Nea

    If you ask me i think all the Republicans are running for President because they are trying to compete and find which one is suited best to bring down President Obama they being doing that since President Obama been in office thats why they have no intentions on standing behind him to try and get this country on track even though he dont need their help anyway.

    November 12, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. tm

    "offer real world solutions"- I haven't heard one real world solution yet from a republican!

    November 12, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. Bonnie

    These people never cease to amaze me . They cannot even get along with the the Democrats how in the world would any of them and I mean any of them ever get along with any world leader? They just come out of the woodwork to want to run for President like it is nothing none of them are qualified to be a dog catcher like someone else said. No wonder their party is in such lousy shape with no direction.

    November 12, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  19. ANGIE

    cantor= sameo,sameo!!!!!

    November 12, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. Grahame

    Eddy Cantor????????????NOPE

    November 12, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. Luke Brown

    The man has no vision, and done all he could to thwart Congressional action on any issue the Democrats feel is important. He is a political hack and an example of how excessively partisan Washington has become. The core of his political world is Pat Robertson.

    November 12, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. Samantha

    These clowns aren't talking about a record number of people didn't both to vote at all last week in Va or NJ. The young voter turn out was at a record low.

    November 12, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Georgette

    Good luck moron.

    November 12, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. Fair is Fair

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

    Now here's a product of the liberalized public education system for you.

    What's going on in Afghanistan is an 'insurgence'.

    November 12, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  25. Frank, Las Vegas

    Mr. Canter will find it pretty hard to get elected to anything outside of his own district now that the GOP represents only 17% of Americans. The funny part is, these clowns still think they are in the majority. I guess they still can't accept they resounding rejection by the American people and now with them purging all the moderates the GOP is the GOG (Grand Old Group).

    November 12, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
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