In Congress, Eric Cantor Is Plotting the GOP's Comeback

The No. 2 Republican in the House wants to make the minority more than 'the party of no.'

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He is said to be a voracious reader who favors cardio at the gym. He seems to throws himself into all pursuits with the same energy, with the possible exception of golf. "I don't even break 100," he says.

On the fundraising circuit, Cantor estimates he has brought in at least $50 million for other Republican candidates over the years and campaigned in about 40 districts in the last election cycle. His political action committee is called ERICPAC, for Every Republican Is Crucial.

Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich predicts Cantor will land his old job someday. Gingrich says Cantor is energetic and highly organized and has a "very disciplined intelligence, like an engineer." But that last trait, which Gingrich judges a strength, is perceived differently by others. Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who has followed Cantor since he first won office in 1991, calls him smart and articulate. "He wants to go as far as he can, whether it's House speaker or majority leader or the Senate or president." But Sabato can't see Cantor capturing the White House because "he has the charisma of a cold fish in February. He doesn't connect with people on an emotional level."

Cantor is new to the scrutiny that comes with the national stage. Last month, he took some hits for holding a fundraiser at a Britney Spears concert on the same night Obama held a televised news conference. Bloggers joked that, with Spears dressed as a dominatrix, there was more than one whip in the house. The indefatigable Cantor, though, was back at it the next morning. "He got up at 4:30 to YouTube the press conference the next day," Cantor's deputy chief of staff, Rob Collins, says, "so he could go on the Today show."

Today, tomorrow—perhaps for years to come—count on seeing more of one of the Democrats' top antagonists.

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