November 12th, 2009
12:47 PM ET
13 years ago

Cantor's sights set higher than Congress?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. diridi

    this guy is a total idiot just like any other idiots like Tim Palentine....ok...Republicans messed this nation like crazy....lord bless this not even vote any republican idiot....enough is enough....ok....

    November 12, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. dave

    And I repeat the same line I used for Palin.

    Cue the twilight zone music........

    I have to add an additonal comment:

    How does the story go about a snowball having a chance in you know where?

    November 12, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  3. Mike in MN

    The left is so clueless. They seem totaly ingnorant of the fact that Obama and the Democrats are taking the nation in a direction voters do not want to go. Trillion dollar deficits which are 3 times the size of those under Bush, 10.2% unemployment and going up despite trillions of dollars spent on stimulus and bailouts, a trillion dollar plus government take over of health care in the works, cap and trade which will increase everyones energy costs and choke the economy, more government and more spending everywhere you look is not what voters voted for in 2008. Voters voted for change in 2008, but change we can afford. Voters expect government to live within it's means, just like we all have to. We simply can't afford Obama's socialist change and we don't want it.

    November 12, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  4. Antonio_elizabeth-NJ

    Ignorance seems rampant in the Republican club. First, their leaders George Bush jr., Mr. Cheney, The Bald guy, Mr. Limbaugh, Mrs. Sarah Palin. Looks more like the cast of Saturday a Night Live episode.

    November 12, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  5. They call me "tater salad"

    WHAT?!?! Democratic- leaning Virginia??? Now CNN is going FOX on us by trying to add some significance to an insignificant GOP victory in a STATE, election in a RED, STATE!......... WOW!.......Kinda reaching a little bit, ain't cha, CNN?????Oh and buy the way, the GOP didn't win the election half as much as the Democrats lost it by not even showing an interest in their candidate! They pretty much knew they couldn't win in Virginia because everyone knows, except CNN obviously that Virginia is a RED STATE!!!!!!! Nice try CNN! But, you seriously need to get real!!!!!!

    November 12, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. Monster Zero

    Laugh you liberal pigs, the liberal zeros just got their wake up call in the recent elections! 2010 is coming and you are going to get a great big dose of American Independence, we are NOT a people that needs Government handouts and more bureaucracy. We are awake now and we want our Nation back...

    November 12, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. surfdog san diego

    Cantor is the female Palin in the GOP. Not worth the writeup.

    November 12, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. Gunny262

    Wake up republicans. You need to get back on track with what America wants not the ultra rich. You need someone strong to oust this idiot and his cronies out of office in 2012. Atleast we can get rid of some of them in 2010. Middle class conservatives are who you should be kissing up to to get the votes to you need to turn our Country around and get this socialist marxist group the heck out of DC

    November 12, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. William, SJ

    Yea! Lying weasel for Presi-dent, what could go wrong?! Sorry Mr. Cantor but you're an open book, even the faithful must look at you funny.

    November 12, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. Obama Stormtrooper

    More proof Republicans are just an insurgency similar to the Taliban that needs to be eradicated.

    November 12, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  11. Liberal4Obama

    That worm is not going anywhere he better keep his day job whatever that is... oh yea saying NO to everything that helps Americans live a better life

    November 12, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  12. "Moderate Republican"

    I can't stand that man. He an Boehner get under my skin. I'm a "Moderate Republican" and he's way to the "right" for me.

    A couple of my friends consider themselves Republicans, but this time around they're going to vote Democrat out of spite.Don't under estimate the "Moderate Republicans".

    November 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. Vigla

    We should all listen to New Father very carefully. He is actually touting the George Bush presidency. How sad... By the time Georgie boy left he had doubled our debt, was the first president to LOSE jobs during his presidency and nearly created another depression. But somehow, after 1 year in office, it's Obama's fault.

    Whatever you're smoking, buddy, stop immediately. It's making you sound crazy.

    November 12, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Ann

    Canton reminds me of John Boehner, dumb as a box of rocks!!! All he does is spout Repug talking points.

    November 12, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. snowflake

    Ha!!!!!! "resurgence"???????? The GOP is so completely split now, it will never be as it once was! Between the nutcrackers - Sara Palin and Michelle Bachman, along with Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News contributors, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Riley, and all the rest, it is IMPOSSIBLE FOR RESURGENCE!!! More than likely, it is going to be ONE BIG FIGHT to see which side wins? The nuts - or the nutcrackers!!!!!

    November 12, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  16. RN

    what have republicans done besides oppose everything the democrats have tried to do to clean up the mess from the last 8 years?
    Contrary to what some appear to think the financial disaster and the 2 wars we are fighting did not start the day Obama was elected.

    There is a big mess that needs to be cleaned up and all the republicans can do is rant about how nothing is being accomplished. Well, guess what- the republicans just oppose everything the democrats do – without offering anything better. – remember when they opposed the budget – and their offering ran a total of 19 pages and did not have a single number in it?

    If they want to contribute to anything in this country they cannot just walk out of committee meetings and declare that if the democrats accomplish something without them it's the nuclear option.

    November 12, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. chelle

    Resurgence and my my...aren't the Republicans using big words for something that hasn't happened yet.... Do they know the meaning of "renaissance"? Rebirth? Sounds like the same old tired rhetoric to me. Nothing new.

    November 12, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  18. NWisconsin Boy

    Remember when Bobby Jindal was the Repubicans 'Golden Boy'? What ever happened to him? Cantor is just the flavor of the month.

    November 12, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  19. Jetta

    Nothing wrong with dreaming..and that is exactly what Cantor is doing.

    November 12, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. They call me "tater salad"

    If the GOP really want a resurgence to actually happen, they had better come up with someone better than this effeminate, little Avon lady, or they're going nowhere in a big hurry!

    November 12, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. Sandra, Atlanta

    Of course he is! You can tell that Boehner doesn't like being upstaged either. To me Cantor is another one of those my way or the highway type conservatives. He talks a good game but the reality is different.

    November 12, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  22. Darren

    REALITY: President Obama inherited a country that was days away from a complete breakdown.

    Eight years of Republican leadership (sic) turned the USA from a nation that ruled the world into an international basket case. I am sure that Obama is not too fond of some of the measures he has had to take but for God's sake, he is averting a disaster here; he needs to take drastic action.

    For anyone in America to believe the Republicans' claims that a continuation of their disastrous policies would get us out of this mess defies logic.

    The thing that still continues to amaze me is that the people most likely to be helped by Obama are the same struggling masses that listen to FOX news, Limbaugh, Beck (and soon Lou Dobbs) and believe that Obama is the enemy.

    The Republican party continue to use the US Flag and religion to perpetrate the biggest con the world has ever seen! Joseph Goebbels had nothing on you lot!!!

    November 12, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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