How Far Can Eric Cantor Rise?
08/05/2011 - 16:00
Douglas Bloomfield

It's no secret that Eric Cantor wants to be the first Jewish speaker of the House. He is an impatient man on the move, and the only mystery is when he'll go for it.

Will he try it before the end of the current term, hold off until the 113th Congress convenes in January 2013, assuming Republicans will still control the House, or wait until John Boehner steps down?

Friends and foes alike point to a quote by Cantor in his high school yearbook: "I want what I want when I want it."

Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in the 112th Congress and, as majority leader, the highest ranking Jew in this or any other Congress.

Rahm Emanuel had wanted to be the first Jewish speaker but opted instead to be White House Chief of Staff and then mayor of Chicago.

But some say Cantor is aiming for something higher.

His name was mentioned in 2008 as a possible running mate for Sen. John McCain in 2008, but several press reports suggested that was leaked by Cantor's office, not McCain's, which may suggest some interest in national office on the part of the sixth-term Richmond, Virginia, congressman.

Cantor has positioned himself as a leader of the Tea Party wing of the House GOP, and if the party picks a more traditional conservative as its standard bearer next year, it may look for someone who will appeal to the hardline populist wing as an alternative to someone like Michele Bachmann. 

If Cantor is on the national ticket, how would Jewish voters nationally respond? There certainly would be a degree of pride, as happened when Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut was put on the Democratic ticket in 2000, but Jews vote overwhelmingly Democrat anyway. And four years later when Lieberman tried to run for the Democratic nomination on his own, he failed to generate much Jewish enthusiasm. The novelty had worn off by then.

The GOP hopes to make Israel a wedge issue in next year's election, accusing President Obama of being hostile to the Jewish state, and may see Cantor, Netanyahu's friend, as a key to that strategy. But that approach is flawed. Cantor has been a leading proponent of Tea Party positions and that will repel, not attract Jewish voters. Polls show Israel is not a high priority – usually around 8th on their agenda – and the GOP has too much baggage that turns off Jewish voters, who in recent years have been voting 3:1 Democratic. What's more, it has been tried before and failed every time.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said it is "realistic" for Cantor to want to be speaker but he "lacks the kind of charisma that is needed on the right or left to win the White House."

Some are surprised he chose not to run for the Senate seat being vacated next year by the retiring Jim Webb (D). Instead, former Sen. George Allen, who Webb defeated in 2006, will try again. Allen, it will be recalled, initially denied reports that his mother was born Jewish, even declaring his love of ham sandwiches, but later admitted she was.

Cantor, 48, rose quickly in the House; he moved into the leadership in his second term and by his sixth was the majority leader. Boehner, 61, represents the party's old guard; Cantor is leader of the uncompromising hardliners typified by the tea partiers.

Cantor has a staunch defender in Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who called him "a modest, focused and unassuming man" with a "steely core" and cannot be intimidated. To Boteach, Cantor is "the dam holding back the torrent of spending that would deepen" the nation's financial crisis.

Critics and even some colleagues, however, are not as enthusiastic. Many describe him as aggressive, opportunistic and ambitious. The Washington Post reported he spent more than $10,000 on speech coaching.

An energetic fundraiser, Cantor has reportedly raised and given to GOP candidates over $1 million and is expected to match that in the current election cycle. That kind of money buys a lot of loyalty.

With Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan largely out of the picture – he became toxic after being tagged as the man who wanted to "destroy Medicare and Social Security as we know it"– Cantor is the Democrats new favorite target for what party operatives call "his unflinching support of big corporations and the wealthy at the expense of the middle class."  

The problem with portraying Cantor as an uncompromising hardliner is while it may alienate Democrats it can have the opposite effect on Republicans if and when Cantor decides to challenge Boehner.  Or run for higher office.



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Eric Cantor is one of the most egotistical, cut throat, back stabbing individuals to ever serve in Congress. He total lacks qualifications to be in his current position. It is interesting to watch him as he rushes to appear before any TV camera or microphone. A sign of his ego is calling himself and his two buddies "Young Guns." Get Real! At 48, he is not that young. His actions to lead the Tea Party have cost this country dearly. Last week and today the stock markets are tumbling because of the S&P downgrade -- brought on by Cantor and the Tea Party's refusal to consider eliminating the tax cuts for the very wealthy, closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing revenues. The Tea Party acted like suicide bombers ready to blow the country into oblivion financially. They forced the Speaker and President to cede rather than have us go into default. They were dumb enough to carry out their threats. The group claims that reducing taxes for the wealthy hampers job creation....blah, blah, blah.. How do the extremely high paid entertainers, atheletes and Wall Street financial people create jobs? Most of the very wealthy already pay taxes at a lower rate as stated by Warren Buffett.
Cantor shows a total lack of respect for the Office of the President of the United States. It is okay to disagree with the President but name calling and rude behavior are not how members of the US Congress should act. Further, his interferring in the President's efforts, by siding with Netanyahu over the US efforts to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli situation is unacceptable for a US Congressman. The President's efforts to resolve this issue is of critical importance to the US, as it is a direct threat to our interest and security. Cantor apparently doesn't see it that way.
There is a Greek saying "blind men don't look in mirrors." Mr. Cantor should take off his blindfolders and look in the mirror and ask himself "is what I am doing in the best interest of this country?" If he has any intelligence, whatsoever, I think the answer would be "NO."

Do you really think the down grade was because the Government is not taxing us enough? I think the TEA Party platform is clearly for the government to show fiscal responibility by spending within its means. What is the point of a budget if everyone ignores it?
The SnP downgrade was because the Leadership of Congress with Trillions more in spending that the previous Administration could not find any wiggle room to not spend even more!

Perhaps you do not understand the tennants of Government, it is the JOB of the President to question Congress's law making and leading. It is NOT the Job of Congress to question the Lawmaking and leadership of the President, simply because the President is not supposed to be MAKING THE LAWS by executive order. This is supposed to be a Republic, it has not yet devolved to a dictatorship.

As to the your comment "The Tea Party acted like suicide bombers ready to blow the country into oblivion financially. They forced the Speaker and President to cede rather than have us go into default. Might I ask, just WHO so mishandled the budget to have us to the position of default? Was it the TEA Party that spent us into oblivion? Nobody in the real world who has to preform or be fired runs a business into the brink of default and then blames other's for their crisis. How many times do we raise the "Debt Celing" before we lower the Debt instead?.

This president has spent well over 25,000 of your money in his term for... what? How well would you have gotten by in the last three years if you had to pay 25,000 in additional taxes? Because you did. Only, instead of taking it from you directly, they BORROWED it at interest and signed your name. And did it again for your wife, and again for each of your children. How many years are you going to take to pay it back? And since the "Debt ceiling" has been raised, take an extra 10 grand out of your pocket this year and set it aside. Cause they need it...

Taxed Enough Already... Are you begining to see the light?

Judging from your comment smearing Eric Cantor, you appear to be a typical Democrat hack spouting the White House's lame talking points and deliberately misstating the recent history of the debt and deficit debate and eventual compromise.

You have absolutely no knowledge of the fundamental principles of REAL economics, and would prefer to play Marxist-derived class warfare games. "Eliminating tax cuts for the extremely wealthy." What cuts? The system has been essentially the same now for a decade! What you're really talking about is the congressional Republicans holding the line against a new tax increase, an increase which would cripple a lagging economy even further and eventually reduce government revenues and exacerbate the deficit and debt, not improve it.

And you are obviously anti-Israel, not because you're not Jewish, but because you think that a congressman's principled opposition to the Admistration's misguided "US efforts to resolve the Palestinian/Israeli situation" (including starting from indefensible 1967 borders) is in some way a threat to American interests and security.

American will never elect a Jew for a president...sorry

Thank you for the article on Eric Cantor who has earned my respect, unlike Rahm Emanuel whom I scorn. Consider that the US has just lost its triple A rating from Standard and Poor's. Certainly, the housing crisis has been a major reason for our financial woes. Enter Rahm Emanuel, as a Bill Clinton appointment in 2000 to the Board of Directors of the Freddie Mac government housing program, for which he was paid at least $320,000 for 14 months work. That time line and position places Emanuel near the center of a FAILED and CORRUPT government policy for which US taxpayers are still paying dearly. He could have raised concerns and criticisms of the road down which Freddie Mac was going, which would have been the right thing to do. Instead, he lined his pockets with taxpayer money while Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and investment bankers, of which he was one, were pushing big mortgages on over-leveraged home buyers who could not repay their loans, thereby leaving the taxpayers on the hook for the bills. I'm still idealistic enough to think that politicians should go to Washington to serve the people, not bankrupt them.

This is obviously a typical snide hit piece on a Jewish conservative politician from the Left. To say that "Cantor has positioned himself as a leader of the Tea Party wing of the House GOP" defies the reality of the recent debt and deficit debate, where Cantor's moves were clearly in lockstep with the other House GOP leaders, especially Boehner. The resulting legislation was not very attractive to the majority of "Tea Party" Republicans, neither in the House nor among the grass roots. For the record, Cantor voted twice FOR the legislation backed by Boehner, while most of the so-called "Tea Party members" voted NO. Cantor came out of this looking more like a typical establishment Beltway Republican than a Tea Partier. Referring to next year's presidential election, the smug claim that "the GOP has too much baggage that turns off Jewish voters" may well be much less relevant than the writer thinks. It could be that the candidate with the baggage turning off many Jewish voters is none other than Barack Hussein Obama. As for the alleged quote "I want what I want when I want it" from Cantor's high school yearbook, I for one would tend to doubt that a high school youngster and his teachers, especially in the South, would think such a selfish comment inappropriate to such an occasion. If the quote can be documented, it's fair game for the writer to use; if not, it can only be called a political smear. (CORRECTION)