In Republican circles, some see potential inroads with Jewish voters if the new president missteps in the Middle East. “I think that we’re going to see a lot of unrealism about the Middle East from the Obama Administration,” says former Bush speechwriter David Frum. “There’s a great deal the Democratic Party can do to push away Democratic voters. The last time there was a big shift in Jewish voting was during the Carter years.”
Political observers predict a bright future for Cantor within the GOP, though some question whether he can measure up to recent powerful House leaders. “He doesn’t have a dominating character that makes him stand out,” says Hugo Gurdon, editor of The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress. “He’s kind of a bland figure. Gingrich and DeLay had a lot of detractors, but they also had a lot of admirers. There was a much smaller number of people who felt indifferently about them. Cantor is somebody who could get to the top position and take the party in a new direction. I wouldn’t rule it out because he is a smart guy and well-liked with strong conservative credentials, but he would certainly have to grow into the job if he were to do it.”
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a key player in conservative politics, recommends that Cantor stick to core Republican principles and not try to invent “New Coke.” So far, Norquist is satisfied with the job Cantor and other Republican leaders are doing in stemming what he sees as excessive government spending. If Cantor continues to stick to his guns, says Norquist, he will have many options. “He could stay in the House, work on rebuilding the majority and be speaker some day,” he says. “Or Cantor could decide, ‘I’ll go be senator.’ Or he could decide to be governor. Or he could end up as vice president.”
Or even president. Bliley, Cantor’s old boss, hears about his former driver all the time. “I was at a benefit dinner in Richmond for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and this friend said, ‘I used to play tennis with Eric’s mother and her boys were running around and Mary Lee (Cantor’s mother) says, ‘That one, Eric, says he’s going to be president of the United States,’” Bliley says.
Cantor responds with the customary denials: “I am not interested in running for the nomination to challenge President Obama in 2012,” he insists. “My focus rests on the House of Representatives and helping regain the public’s trust in the Republican Party to lead.”
Bliley agrees that the president-talk is premature. “I think it’s far-fetched,” he says, “I don’t think he’s given any serious thought to it at this time. But he’s still a very young man.”