Let’s play a parlor game. Quick: What words come to mind when you think of the House political leadership?
For John Boehner, you’d probably say “country club” or “insider.” Paul Ryan would conjure up “wonk” or “budget.” “Motherhood” or “pro-life” would suffice for Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
What about Eric Cantor? He’s the second-most powerful Republican congressman and, before Tuesday, was likely the next speaker of the House of Representatives. Yet adjectives and nouns don’t exactly plummet from the clouds when his name is mentioned. And while you might dislike Boehner’s or Ryan’s personas, they at least have public identities that they’ve owned and embraced.
With Cantor you can rack your brain for hours, and chances are you'll come up with only one felicitous descriptor: ambitious. Whatever mysteries swirled around Cantor, we know that he had boundless ambition, to the point of possibly challenging Boehner for the speaker’s gavel. And that was his biggest problem. Eric Cantor desperately wanted to lead the people's house, but he never gave the people any reason to support him.