Odd Dominion is an unabashedly liberal, bi-monthly op-ed column covering Virginia politics.
As longtime readers may have noticed, we here at the Odd Dominion have a minor obsession with Virginia’s 7th District U.S. Representative Eric “Ol’ Chiseled Chin” Cantor. The current House majority leader (and only Jewish Republican now serving in Congress), Cantor is the sort of calculating, insincere, inscrutable Congress-critter that really drives us nuts. Over his long and successful career, Cantor has alternately presented himself as both a pragmatic moderate and a right-wing ideologue, swinging back and forth in the political winds like an over-greased, election-seeking weathervane.
Cantor’s latest bout of ideological whiplash comes as he gears up for his 2014 reelection campaign. Now, you would be hard-pressed to find a single pundit who believes that Cantor is in danger of losing either his primary or general election. His primary opponent, an economics professor named David Brat, has zero name recognition and no money in his campaign coffers, and the Democrats failed to field even a single 7th district candidate before the April 10 filing deadline.
And yet Cantor still flails around, trying to shore up his right flank as he pounds his hapless primary opponent with both an attack ad (which labels the very conservative Brat a “liberal college professor”) and an anti-Brat website.
Why the absurd campaign overkill? Hard to say, really, but it probably has something to do with the fact that Cantor has recently received a not-insignificant amount of flack from conservative websites for, among other things, hastily passing a $21 billion “doc fix” Medicare bill (which averted a 24 percent cut in payments to doctors and hospitals) by voice vote, and attending a Florida summit held by the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group which is working aggressively to squash Tea Party challengers to establishment GOP candidates.
In addition to the negative advertising, Cantor is also doing the other thing he does best: peacocking. Long suspected by many isolationist Republicans of being squishy on immigration reform, Cantor used the occasion of a “Happy Passover” telephone call from President Obama (in which they also discussed immigration) to burnish his right-wing bona fides. Having barely hung up the phone, Cantor quickly rushed out a statement bashing the president, and stating unequivocally that “House Republicans do not support Senate Democrats’ immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House.”
The response from the White House? A puzzled shrug. Reached by Politico for comment, an Obama administration official said, simply, “it was a pleasant call.”
Will any of this help Cantor in his transparent quest to become House Speaker? Somehow we doubt it, but given the vicissitudes of congressional politics, anything could happen. One thing is certain, however: Eric Cantor will be back in the 114th United States Congress, trying every trick in the book to get a majority of his fellow Republicans to love him.