With only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul on tomorrow's Super Tuesday Virginia ballot (Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to qualify), Rep. Eric Cantor's endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor was a no-brainer.
Romney is expected to sweep all 49 Virginia delegates and for Cantor to try to sit this one out would only weaken him.
Acting now has made him the first member of the House GOP leadership to endorse a presidential candidate.
It raised speculation that he has his eyes on the number two spot on the GOP ticket, but Cantor denies he's interested in vice president. That's a job one can never be seen running for, and such ambitions must be denied if there is any hope of getting it all. But there's another reason.
Cantor's real ambition is to be Speaker of the House. He has clearly made the calculation that Romney will get the nomination and waiting until after Tuesday's vote would only lessen Cantor's importance.
He has tried to position himself as the Tea Party's man in the House GOP leadership, and his endorsement helps enhance Romney's conservative credentials and earns Cantor credit with the party and the presumptive nominee.
Cantor's great ambition is the Speakership -- either by challenging John Boehner next year, as some expect, or by waiting his turn.
With his reputation as a savvy vote counter and ability to gauge party sentiment, CQ/Roll Call Daily Briefing notes, Cantor "would not be going on an ultimately unnecessary presidential-endorsement limb unless he was quite sure the move would prove prescient and do his own career good in the end."
Another possible Cantor calculation, said CQ/Roll Call, is that "Rick Santorum at the top of the ticket, Cantor has surely concluded, would contribute to a significant shrinking of the House majority he’s trying to lead."
As the House Majority Leader, Cantor is the highest ranking Jew in Congressional history, and he wants to be the first-ever Jewish speaker. He is the only Jewish Republican in the entire 112th Congress.
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