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. Republican: I only help those who can already help themselves


    What solutions have they offered? I want to know! Campiagning is not a solution. TELL ME WHAT SOLUTIONS HAVE THEY OFFERED?!?!?!?!

    November 12, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |

    Does he ever do anything except spew negativity and promote hatred? I`m not complaining just asking.

    November 12, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Eric in Denver

    Face it crazies on the left the house will be run by the republicans after 2010 election. Your side since taking the majority has done absolutely nothing positive for this country and we all can see that. Some of you are blind to facts and will always support your local dumocrat. That is fine because the independents determine elections and based on polls(Not right wing polls for you conspiracty theorists) the independents are supporting republicans by a margin of 20%. Considering 40% of the population are conservatives, and 20% are liberals, this doesn't look good for your side. Enjoy it while you can because CHANGE(positive this time) is a comin.

    November 12, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  4. Paul Ernest Show

    If Americans love themselves they will leave the Republican party or rather push them away from governance for a long time. The mess we are going through today is of their making. They rallied around George Bush as he made a mess of everything, holding on to policies that are irrational, selfish and empty. Their victory in Virginia is not a sign of resurgence. When the moment comes Americans will be reminded of the culprits. The Republican party.

    November 12, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    If the Presidency, House and Senate were handed over to the Republicans today, tommorrow they would take us back to way the World use to be and that would be okay if the rest of the World would go back with us and we all know that's not going to happen. We're in a Global Change that the Republicans keep placing blame on the Democrats while all World leaders are looking taking on responsibility and solutions.

    November 12, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  6. We Won Get Over It

    Excuse me in the last 100 years the republicans have a slight edge over the democrats in governors...not counting this last election. If CNN is going to post articles why don't they research. All this information is on line. So if the republicans are the ones who had the edge on governors, how in the devil do we get over democratic leaning. gee glad you didn't have access to my HISTORY PAPERS when I went to school.

    November 12, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  7. robertshedin

    Cantor may well be a clownshoe, but when the votes were counted, the tally put Republicans in office. Democrats should take heed lest they forget Americans elected Bush/Cheney twice and you'd be hard pressed to find a better example of dumb and dumber.

    November 12, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  8. carlos, THAT one

    bunch of anti american amoral GOPhers and CONServatives......and cantor will be down and out at election time

    November 12, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  9. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    This little weasel should be thrown out of Congress for dereliction of duty!

    November 12, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. vette gal

    Doesn't he realize that this isn't a resurgence? The house and senate will never pass term limits for their positions because it means they will have to give up all their perks and power, so the only way for the public to get them out of office is to vote them out if they are an incumbent.

    November 12, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Independent

    You will never appeal to this Independent again. Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me.

    November 12, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  12. Ralph

    Laugh it up demos cause that will make your donwfall that much sweeter. You thought you elected "The One" to the White House but we all ended up with "The Lemon." It's fun watching the demos unravel under the so-called leadership of Nancy "Bela Legosi" Pelosi and Harry "The Wimp" Reid. I understand that you don't want to openly admit to that, who would but admit it or not, its underway. Election Day last week was just a small start on the road to taking back our country from these misfits. Granted that Bush and his administration left a hell of a mess to clean up but Obama and his hacks are driving our great country into the toilet and that has to be stopped. Mid terms next year and then we throw the bum out in 2012, hopefully before he can do too much damage.

    November 12, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. "The Republican resurgence begins tonight"

    very scary thought, but I don't think the electorate will forget the pain brought by 8 years of GOPers any time soon

    November 12, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. G SMITH

    The Republicans are right on the issues while the Democrats are 100% wrong, that is why 2010 and 2012 will be the Republicans year

    Bush, Palin and Romney etc are better for this Country then the person in the White House now. The Democrats can not win on the issues that is why they get personal. Hatred is their game plan.

    November 12, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  15. redleg

    Is he going to run on his military record?

    November 12, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  16. Bob of Lompoc

    Another Romney clone – a Pretty Boy with an empty head, mouthing the eternal Republican mantra, "all taxes should be cut, all Muslims are terroists, all Democrats are unpatriotic, health care like I have, as a Federal employee, is not for the rest of you Americans". Republicans are skunks in business suits.

    November 12, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. Cheryl

    Not a very impressive person.

    November 12, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  18. Bush's Favorite Things: Blanky, Bikey & Nappy

    Eric Cantor/Britney Spears 2012!

    November 12, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  19. Ethan

    Only in the terrorist GOP can you 'get ahead' by being a pathetic whiny liar with absolutely ZERO to offer in the way of solutions.

    November 12, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. once upon a horse

    "real world solutions" eh Mr. Cantor? I guess that means having folks put tea bags on their heads and ride on a bus all around the country and protest things without knowledge of what they are really protesting.. If that leads to any kind of major resurgence then I'm REALLY afraid for our country.

    November 12, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  21. Matt

    I'm sure Cantor appreciates this little love letter, CNN. I didn't like it when CBS Sunday Morning ran the same segment a few weeks ago, either. You could at least mention that Cantor is a right wing radical who proudly speaks to people who equate the President with Hitler and healthcare reform with concentration camps.

    November 12, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. Wes

    Uhhhhhh. Duh. Mr. Cantor, your Republican Party was in charge of the good ole USA for the last 10 years and you ran it into the ground. Do you honestly think that Americans are going to turn the country back over to a bunch of Republican thugs who have no interest in this great country other than making each other rich at the expense of the middle and working classes of people. Go find yourself a job in a grocery store if you can find one that will hire someone with an attitude and outlook like yours.

    November 12, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  23. Independent One

    He would probably be better than the liberal freaks running things in congress now.

    November 12, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  24. victim of republican greed

    Cantor would make a good night manager at Burger King.

    November 12, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  25. Kevin B.

    The GOP has become the party of cowards, fear merchants and chicken hawks. They haven't done anything in the interest of average americans since Eisenhower was president.

    Thier complete focus has been on maintaining the wealth of the wealthy at the expense of the average american. i.e. defending the interest of big insurance at the expense of many suffering average american families.

    Do not be fooled by a new wrapping on the same old package.

    November 12, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
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