November 12th, 2009
12:47 PM ET
8 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. Johnny B

    The GOP's plan for the future: Regression, take everything back to where we were in the 1950's. It is no wonder that moderates leave the republican party and the majority of republican voters are senior citizens.

    Progress means moving forward, not constantly looking back. We cannot move forward with today's challenges keeping the status quo.

    November 12, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  2. Pam from Tn.

    Dream On..Mr. Cantor..Dream ON..

    November 12, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  3. Laura in KS

    This is stupid. People are stupid. The majority voted for Obama b/c they wanted "change." But as soon as he starts trying to implement said "change," everybody freaks out and turns on him. He hasn't done anything that should be a surprise, since everything he's done so far is what he said he would do while campaigning. Evidently, we are a simple people...

    November 12, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  4. Boris

    Before Cantor makes a decision he must ask for permission from Limbaugh.

    November 12, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  5. S M R

    Bad decision to stand on the White House steps in support of the STATUS-QUO and join forces with the likes of the LOONEY Michele BACHMANN? YES, VERY BAD.

    November 12, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. Danny J

    The GOP is crushing the Dems in the polls right now. It's obvious most Americans prefer the Republican ideology and agenda.

    November 12, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  7. Gloria

    This is a joke, right???

    November 12, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. Former Republican

    I'm sorry, but who is Cantor kidding? It took me a while to finally realize, but my former GOP has No roots/credibility in fiscal discipline, quite the opposite considering the record debt created under Republicans.

    Cantor unfortunately continues the same old afraid/fear approach and ridiculous social politics that pander to the far right remnants of the party.

    Independents and forced-out moderates prefer a broader, more tolerant and positive agenda that considers all Americans.

    November 12, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Death Panel Sarah

    Dream on neo-con nazis......
    After McDonnell finds his way to Argentina....

    November 12, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. Dave

    You people really think Barry Barrack H. Obama and his czars want health care because he cares about you? LOL
    It is about power. That is why Bill Clinton just told them to make concessions and pass it no matter what. They need the "win." That is all it is about. They want to jam it through because the House and maybe the Senate will be lost in 2010.
    They have done nothing to better this country. In a year: not one thing. Pathetic.

    Democrats – vote them OUT
    Moderate Republicans – vote them OUT

    Vote in true fiscal conservatives strong on defense and low on taxes.

    November 12, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  11. simp

    This loser has not the backbone to lead the cub scouts let alone this country. it would be the biggest joke for the GOP to have this loser as their canadate for 2012, he is spineless and not very bright don't forget we already had a dumb repubiician in office for 8 long years, let's not make that terrible mistake again. LOL

    November 12, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  12. worriedmom

    Cantor has done well for Virginia. At least he sticks by what he says, not like the Current Prez who can't seem to make a decision. I hate to think of the thought that he might have to actually make a quick decision if the red phone would ring at 3 a.m. in the morning. You can bend over and say good-bye!

    November 12, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  13. Nick

    Democtraically leaning Virginia? They must not meant the Old Dominion! When I was there ffor seventeen years is was a Republican statte and could be counted as a Republican state because the Richmond papers make Fox news sound like the DNC daily media page. When the blacks do not vote, Virginia is a solid "red" state and they are proud of it.

    November 12, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  14. nanbar

    He wants to attact the moderates, so that is why he appeared at the Tea Party meeting. What a joke?

    November 12, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Abe

    I give Mr.cantor credit for fighting for his party but he is fighting a losing battle. The republicans are more concerned with winning but for sure do not have any platform to the issues our country is facing. They should stop their scare tactics implying our country is going the wrong way, the defecate is high, higher taxes is wrong and simply scaring the young generation that there lives will be no where be as good as a life as they had. We had a president for eight years and our ills started within those eight years. I think Mr. Cantor should worry about how to galvanize his party and come up with a solution/ work as a team, cooperate and not bash the democrats and the president. If his sights are set higher than congress I hope he is not setting his sights on the wrong picture. What we need is not dreamers but visionaries. God gave us one mouth and two ears so we can hear more.

    November 12, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. maf

    Mr. Cantor was one of THE most vitriolic Republicans pre-election. It seems that he is still stuck on the talking points that got so tired over a year ago.

    The reason this generation is leaving a huge mess for the next generation is because WE are overspending as consumers and WE have compounded this debt that the current government is trying to find its way clear of.

    Throw an illegal war in Iraq and an unfinished involvement in Afghanistan and there is a debt that THIS generation is piling up for the future. Our children MAY live a life less fruitful than ours, but that's because we went way past the bounds of responsible fiscal management.

    GOP – the party of fiscal restraint – HA!

    November 12, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Connie, Indiana

    "unite" your party, how, by excluding people who have different opinions..If you can't take different opinions than yours into your party, you are basically screwed. I think the American people are seeing what the republican party is made up of, intolerant, toted the line or else, bigoted people. You can't bring sane into a party is nothing but insane..

    November 12, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  18. chenna_benna

    Sights set higher than Congress? Maybe he can be an executive at a health insurance company and he can just say no all the time to millions of Americans who are denied coverage everyday.

    November 12, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  19. mike

    Canter will never run for president his wife a democrat the right
    wing nut jobs won't tolerate it there using him to get votes and then he
    will be pushed a side like the rest of them

    November 12, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  20. Gina

    This guy is an absolute waste of americans time!!! The only thing he knows is the word NO! His party is becoing extinct!! Not too many conservatives anymore!

    November 12, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  21. Julia - Native American from Idaho

    Cantor-Palin run for pres, vp, hee hee hee, What a team they would be Dumb and Dumber, they can hire walt repub mimmick to clean the WH out-houses, I'm sure he would be honored. Just kidin' I couldn't resist

    November 12, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. mikl

    Go republican with victory in 2010.

    November 12, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  23. unshrub

    Yeah, but in Congress, where it really matters, the Democrats gaind two seats. And one of those seats was in the most republican seat in the country.

    November 12, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. Eleanor


    Repugnants never seem to learn, do they...


    Mr. Empty Suit...

    November 12, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  25. Shirley

    The first thing the Republicans need to do is care for the country and not just some little section of the country that turns them on. They are stiff-necked and will not receive instructions. Can you imagine if we as citizens could not accomplish anything in our cities because of people like Cantor. Whatever he loves in his wife, he should project on to the American scene. Obviously, he's worked the differences out with his wife. Why can't he do that for the rest of the country? One other thing, I can't tell if he's well-spoken because he spouts the same thing all the time. He might fare well with his district and fellow republicans bu he is not national material, not by a long shot. I can just see Kim J. Il running all over Cantor.

    November 12, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
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