I have to say, I'm pleased as punch that the Democrats now have a legitimate dragon to slay. Maybe it will begin to shift the focus from the Rush Limbaugh non-story to a debate that will actually benefit the country. I'm also pleased that this particular dragon makes his home (or lair, if you will) in Virginia. I just love it when my home state makes the news (except that whole Michael Vick thing).
Eric Cantor, the House Republican Whip, is the representative in Congress of Virginia's 7th district, which covers most of northwest Richmond and its suburbs in that area, as well as part of the Shenandoah Valley. He has represented the 7th district for four terms. He became the Whip in November, after being elected for the fifth time.
What does a whip do? According to Wikipedia, the House whip "manages [his] party's legislative program on the House floor. The Whip keeps track of all legislation and ensures that all party members are present when important measures are to be voted upon."
Though Rep. Cantor has only been Whip a short time, he has already earned the respect of his Republican colleagues. He was unanimously elected Whip, after making a name for himself as chief deputy whip and directly taking on Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the $700 billion bailout bill last fall. This last month, he has been credited with keeping House GOP members united in voting against the Speaker's version of the economic stimulus bill. He clearly has made himself a force to be reckoned with in the Republican Party.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Democrats from all walks of life are now united in an effort to keep Cantor from gaining support and popularity among the American public at large. (I guess it's a step up from trying to pick a fight with a radio host.) President Obama pledged last month to find a way to get Cantor to admit that he (Obama) has "a good idea". David Plouffe, who ran Obama's presidential campaign, said that Cantor was merely echoing Limbaugh's voice in everything. Already, you can hear "robocalls" in Michigan, Florida, and California characterizing Cantor as the leader of the Republican Party, calling it the "party of no".
Independent groups are taking aim at him, as well. Americans United for Change features him in a number of TV spots, highlighting his efforts to oppose the stimulus bill. Spokesman Jeremy Funk says he's just "representing the same old policies the right wing has been promoting".
House Republicans, of course, are pleased with the attention Cantor is receiving. They say it's an indication of how effective he is at strategy and as a leader of the opposition party. It's even said that Rahm Emmanuel, the White House Chief of Staff and a former House Whip for the Democrats, may be personally fixated on Cantor. Some of his tactics mirror Emmanuel's during the Republican Majority. They also line up with tehcniques employed by Speaker Pelosi back when she was in the minority fighting against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
House Democrats try to characterize all the attention Cantor receives as the natural consequence of being in Washington. Basically, you work there long enough you make enemies. Cantor has done a good job of that, clearly. Politics in Virginia have been rather hectic in recent years, with a decidedly leftward slant. With our history of firm Republicanism seeing two Democratic governors elected in a row and now two Democratic senators, Eric Cantor has reason to look forward to the midterm elections with some uncertainty. As I said, ads are already airing against him, both abroad and in his home district.
As a conservative, I'm happy that liberals are finally acknowledging one of the true leaders of the conservative movement. As an independent who personally believes no party should control both the White House and Congress, I'm glad to see the Republican Party begin to find its feet. The midterm elections in 2010 will certainly be exciting; and though I don't live in Representative Cantor's district, if he continues to represent the best of conservatism, then he'll have my support.
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