November 12th, 2009
12:47 PM ET
4 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. russell

    Alot of you Americans wanted change , healthcare , wallstreet , crime potilics , whatever it is Americans wanted change, but change comes with cost , Americans tend to wnat to get something without paying the cost to get it, all of these programs are gonna take monies to fix thses problems , I just ask don't be so selfish to demand that things get better without putting up some capitalm to make this change , so remember the party that wanted to keep things as they are and that means the raping of Americans citizens by big corporations and the healthcare and insurance industry , because if we forget the mess that the republican party put this country through and becasue the change that we want will cost us something , becasue then they will yell from the rooftops that the conservative way of smaller government and less taxes is the only direction we should be going in , but remember this all republican presidents said the exact same thing but did the opposite , so please don't be hoodwinked by these people because if you think that they care about your well being your sadly mistaken,..........

    November 12, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. Howard

    Yeah, I can see it now ... Cantor twittering at his own next swearing-in. The only time that guy pays attention is when he's at the microphone.

    November 12, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. Drone Pilot

    Ron Paul 2012

    November 12, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. marty

    Mr. Cantor certainly fits the current Republican bill.....talk fast, talk loud, talk over the adversary, talk but don't say anything; and wear the perennial smile to mask any emotion. It's scary.

    November 12, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. JF

    Two "knee-jerk" victories does not a RESURGENCE make. Get a reality check !!

    November 12, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. Lori in St Pete

    That guy just creeps me out. Mark my words, it's just a matter of time before he's caught in a compromising position with one of the de facto rethuglican party leader's underage boy toys.

    November 12, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. Tom in Delaware

    Such intelligent comment from the Libs....no wonder you voted for the Imitation Christ.

    November 12, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. Carnell From The Motor City!

    It's House Republican Minority Whipping Boy Eric Cantor R-Virginia. The Only Thing He Should Be Running Is His Car Into A Ditch, A Lake Or Whatever Comes First.

    November 12, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  9. Debbie

    Of course Cantor is looking to 2012 and its been obvious for months.

    Would I vote for him? NO!

    After 35 years left the GOP: You have to be white, male, and very far to the right. The party left the basic platform of center right smaller government. They are now the party of what is becoming a radical political arm religious movement.

    Cantor doesn't represent anything different.

    November 12, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  10. Lisa

    He looks very nice in a suit though, I'll give him that. But yeah...NO on Republican Resurgence....

    November 12, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  11. Jim

    He'll never get my vote unless I see him working to solve America's problems. He is part of the Republican cabal that tries to stop everything Obama wants to do even if Republicans used to want to do it too. All I see from him and them is a fight to get power back. Their job is to solve our problems.

    November 12, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  12. Mathew

    While I'm no fan of the Democrats, I dislike the Republicans for their blatant double-standard.

    Republicans do not want government intervention...unless it involves two people of the same sex wanting to get married.

    Republicans believe in fiscal responsiblity...unless it's financing the projects of a GOP president.

    Repubicans cry for their right to pray in schools...but want to supress a non-Christian's right.

    Republicans believe that if you are a drug addict, it's your fault...unless you're a conservative radio commentator (in which case you need our prayers).

    Republicans believe that if you protest a president's actions, you're patriotic...unless it's a Republican president (in which case you want the terrorists to win).

    If the Republicans want a "resurgence", they should drop the religious right, drop the old testament mentality, and stop being so hypocritical.

    November 12, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. Dean

    Cantor this is the GOP's Great White Hope for 2012. What a joke, Even better if he puts Palin or Bachman on the ticket. The days of the GOP are numbered.

    November 12, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  14. Ex-NC-Pub

    I think he is aspiring to be an actor!

    November 12, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  15. Florida Joe

    Cantor? The same Cantor that told the woman with cancer and no insurance that she should A.) look for a charitable organization to help her or B.) ask you neighbors to pay your bills

    Yep sure looks like a compassionate Repub that we have come to know..............
    And Eric, your trying to intimidate the one Repub that voted for health care didn't work out so well did it?

    You sir are dreaming if you think Americans would be dumb enough to vote for a heartless sole like you......................

    November 12, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. evman

    This guy is clueless...

    November 12, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. stephen Pagnozzi

    Its just amazing how empty headed these Republicans are. I just wonder how much money the big Insurance fat cats contributed to his campaign. And, what, Resurgence?? Only if they could think on their own instead of NO, NO NO. I didn't hear anything constructive coming out of his mouth(Cantor's)let alone the remnants of the rest of that pathetic part. The GOP.

    November 12, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. Willy Brown

    Put Democrats in the dumpster in 2010 & 2012

    November 12, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. BestProfitCompany = WAR

    The way he gives speaks will turn off a lot of voters. He talks like Ben Stein... very boring. Obama will dance circles around him in debates.

    If you want any chance of being taken seriously, take some speech classes!

    November 12, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  20. J Farrow

    "Real-world solutions to kitchen table issues". This has been the opposite of what Republicans and Mr Cantor believe in or espouse!

    November 12, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  21. Nancy, MO

    Dream on...this man is too selfish and too partisan to be president. We need leaders who are beyond politics and Cantor is definitely not one of them. He will weasle his way into a presidential bid, but he will not, I repeat, he will NOT win. America is bigger than petty politics and the Republican mindset of greed and power.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    November 12, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  22. wow

    Where do you start with someone that doesn't even have the backbone to stand up against his own party when they are wrong and offensive to others. He is on par with the rest of his party. Please go away and stay away.

    November 12, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  23. Pepou

    What a pathetic character ! Next ...

    November 12, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  24. Levin

    Well if politics doesn't work out for him, He can always go back to playing the role of Bill Lumbergh in "Office Space II". Yeeeeaaaah.

    November 12, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  25. Paul

    Treating this as seriously as I can: Cantor's time in Congress has utterly nullified any presidential aspirations he might have. He's become a joke. The GOP would have to be in dire straits indeed if he's considered a serious candidate in 2016.

    November 12, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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