November 12th, 2009
12:47 PM ET
5 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. Jimbo

    These guys are trying to desperately trying to appeal to an America that just doesn't exist anymore. If Ward and June Cleaver were still around their approach might work.

    November 12, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  2. Dennis

    Then he better use his Government provided healthcare and get a brain transplate if that is what he is thinking.

    I listened to him today on CNBC, my God, does he realize how stupid he sounds?

    November 12, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  3. cecilia

    Good Luck With That !
    if you really want to change things for the Republican Party you might want to get rid of a few of your spokespeople – Like Sarah, Michelle Bachmann, a few of your gun toting tea baggers, Rush, Glenn and now your new adorable spokswoman – Carrie – who just happens to think that Bachmann and Palin are brilliant -

    November 12, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. Big Ed

    He can sure spew out the republican talking points! He has no ideas, either his own or pre-packaged via the RNC. What a MORON!

    November 12, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. CBR

    Reading all of these articles about Rpublican members of Congress is so Interesting. They all seem to have higher ambitions while they continue to turn their backs on what is needed to make our country move ahead now. We are all supposed to wait for three years so that they can run on their own platforms.

    Of course, we all know what that means. more stonewalling and more stalemates. We need to support those members of Congress who work together every day to improve not only the country but the citizens who pay the bills.

    It would be so nice to hear of Republicans and Democrats working together to come forward with the best legislation for health care reform. for veterans rights and benefits and moving the country out of this economic downturn. Oops, I forgot they are only interested in the next election and their chance for power.

    November 12, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  6. victim of republican greed

    Republican resurgence? I think you mean Russian Revolution.

    November 12, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. ThinkAgain

    Big corporations and the wealthy are really throwing a lot of bull at the side of the barn, hoping something will stick.

    They need to catch a clue: The GOP's policies are proven failures and the only answer they have to our nation's challenges is more of the same.

    No amount of pretty faces will ever change that fact.

    November 12, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. Pat-Indy

    Amazing how many pathetic liberals vent all their anger out on these comments

    November 12, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Angie in PA

    The same party that brought us 2 wars a Financial disaster let the worst terriost attack happen are now critizing the Democrats and they want to return to power? havent they done enough DAMAGE?

    November 12, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  10. SocialismBad

    A great conservative... He'll do well, especially after people see the miserable failures the Democrats have inflicted on this country. Liberals will be a dying breed and it can't happen fast enough!

    November 12, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. Ryan

    The "Republican renaissance" is nothing short of hilarious. They didn't lose elections to democrats, they lost elections to terrible democrats... nobody from the DNC was ever that enthusiastic about the clowns that ran so it's sort of like watching a school yard bully beat up the kid in the wheel chair. We felt bad, but saw it coming a mile away.

    November 12, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. Scott

    Until all the Bush following so called Repulicans get out of office, this country will never be safe; not from foreign foes, but from them. I believe if our country re- elects these people, we will see harder times. I say that we vote for true Republicans and not false ones. It is easy to know who the fake ones are from the true Republicans, if they support Bush andCheney; their false, if they don't support Bush and Cheney; their true Republicans!!!

    November 12, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  13. brian in mesa

    I could never ever vote for Mr Cantor. He is way to far right for this independant. I don't see any Republican that thinks they have a chance getting my vote. I was not going to vote for a president last year until McCain picked the rightwing nutjob Palin as a running mate. The Republicans will probably do the same thing in 2012. They are not very smart. They only appeal to the corporations, poorly educated, and the very christian.

    November 12, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  14. sarah

    I just closed my eyes and imagine Canter/Palin 2012 .....bwaaahhhhhh ........no better Canter/Backmann now that's scary and funny at the sametime.

    November 12, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  15. victim of republican greed

    It is disgusting that the hate filled birthers and wingnuts post most of the nasty anti government comments and lies. You make Fox proud.

    November 12, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Deb (Long Island, NY)

    Cantor, Boehner all just seem to grandstand and do nothing else.

    November 12, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. victim of republican greed

    There has to be a republican in that God forsaken party that cares about something other than his or her own well being. Sadly, he or she has not been located.

    November 12, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. K in FLorida

    This is the same person who told a woman at HIS town hall if she wants health insurance to sell all her belongings or go to Charity......!

    This is the same person that openly supports Rush Limbaugh....

    This is the same person that stood on the steps of the capital and proclaimed not ONE Repulsive Republican would vote for Healthcare Reform....

    How can his wife stand living with this guy, he's so ROBOTIC in his approach, Rush Limbaugh is giving this guy his directives, and the sick part about it, Cantor doesn't hide that he submits to Rush Limbaughs ORDERS.....Pathetic

    November 12, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  19. Rick from Murfreesboro, TN

    We don't need another Right Wing Radical who hates the commone people of this country trying to ru(I)n it. We had enough of that with Reagan and George I & George II.

    November 12, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. Mike in MN

    The liberal big goverment agenda along with the reckess and out of control spending by Obama and the Democrats has created an opportunity for Republicans. The recent 2009 elections show that voters including independents are not happy with Democrats and are willing to vote for Republicans. What the Republicans do with this opportunity is up to them. One thing is for sure, going big government liberal lite won't close the deal for them. Going small government, low tax, pro jobs/business, deficit reduction and fisical responsibliity will.

    November 12, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  21. Fed Up Democrat

    I will not allow Code Pink, ACORN/SIEU, George Soros to hijack my party. I now consider myself an Independent. We are leaning to the Republicans because of their platform of limited government, low-taxes, pro-small business, pro-military, "real" healthcare reform, and equal opportunity (not affirmative action). You demonize women like Palin and Bachman, and did the same to Hillary Clinton. You call hard working Americans a gay slang term (teabaggers), and demonize them too. I am embarrassed what the Democratic Party turned themselves into. If the Democrats were so smart, why is there a wide division going on? And you think your smart enough to tell the Republicans what they need to do? That's the biggest joke of it all. At least they have a Jewish Minority Whip, a black National Republican leader; but I'm sure you will call them tokens and Uncle Tom's. Let Jesse Jackson and Sharpton define your party now. The party of FDR, Kennedy, and Truman is ancient history.

    November 12, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  22. R. B ush

    As a republican, I have to say, Cay the epitome of professional politician. The guy who is a father and obviously in his 40's went to a Britney Spears concert and said he loved it. Yeah, Mr. family values got off on listening to "If you seek Amy" Which everyone knows what that really means. I can see Cantor rocking out to Britney Spears, and I can imagine what he is really thinking.....(mmm mmm, i like that trashy young stuff) Man, this guy is a fruitcake. I wish he was a democrap.

    November 12, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. R. B ush

    Ridiculous. This man is the same guy who claims to be a family values guy, good father, yada yada, all after attending a Britney Spears concert, listening to 'If you seek Amy' which we all know what that means. I think he actually couldn't contain himself when he spoke about his Britney Spears experience. That alone makes me think he is a suit, an empty suit. Hey, Cantor. Britney Spears....family values. Oil and water, dude. Get over yourself, this republican has.

    November 12, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  24. R. Z. California

    This guy claims to be a family values guy. This guy attended a Britney Spears concert this year in which he said she was "awesome". Hey Cantor. "If you seek Amy" and family values? You're nuts, dude. This republican thinks you're a joke that isn't very funny.

    November 12, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. Sharon

    Sorry Eric, the Congress is not local politics. With all of the racial remarks, the NO votes, the acceptance of Joe Wilson's "You Lie" shout and the constant dive into the psychotic world of Congresswoman, Bachman, you have really lost all credibility. I once believed that you had promise, although I am a Democrat, but not now.

    November 12, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
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