ERIC THE READY
House Republican Deputy Whip Eric Cantor has spent the last week making calls to fellow Republican House members he believes will survive next week's election, according to several members who received the call. "He is already lining up support for his next job," says one member who spoke to Cantor. "I'm not sure what it is, and he doesn't seem to know, but it's not going to be deputy job, that's for sure."
On the call, according to another member, Cantor apologized for the two economic bailout votes that were forced on some Republicans after the initial vote failed to gain passage. "He said the bailout bill and the votes were a mistake," a third member said. "He was apologetic about it, which was no big deal to me, I didn't vote for it. I thought he was wrong. I wish he'd call the folks who are losing right now. That's what a leader would do."
Cantor, a favorite among some conservatives, as well as what's left of the pro-Republican lobbying community in Washington, is expected to challenge either House minority leader John Boehner or whip Roy Blunt. Boehner is expected to seek another term as leader. Blunt has been less clear on his intentions. Blunt took a beating for his role in the economic bailout bill, a piece of legislation that was not popular with many House Republicans and less popular with Republican voters.
Cantor, however, has failed to distinguish himself with many House Republicans. He angered a number of members after the first bailout bill failed , by claiming the vote had nothing to do with principled objections to the bill, and more to do with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's floor remarks before the vote.
Cantor, as well, is known inside the Republican caucus for playing it safe on both policy and floor politics, something some Republicans don't believe the party can afford to do given the last two election cycles.
Former Mitt Romney presidential campaign staffers, some of whom are currently working for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin's bid for the White House, have been involved in spreading anti-Palin spin to reporters, seeking to diminish her standing after the election. "Sarah Palin is a lightweight, she won't be the first, not even the third, person people will think of when it comes to 2012," says one former Romney aide, now working for McCain-Palin. "The only serious candidate ready to challenge to lead the Republican Party is Mitt Romney. He's in charge on November 5th."
Romney has kept a low profile nationally since being denied the vice presidential nomination. He is currently traveling for the National Republican Congressional Committee in support of some House members, and has attended events for a handful of other House members who have sought his support, but he has traveled little for the McCain-Palin ticket. "He said the only time he'd travel for us is if we assured him that national cameras would be there," says a McCain campaign communications aide. "He's traveled to Nevada and a couple other states for us. That's about it."
Should McCain-Palin not win next week, Romney is expected to mount another presidential run, though it isn't clear that he has handled himself particularly well since losing the nomination. He failed to support or espouse conservative positions on the economic bailout bill in an effective or meaningful way, and he has turned down opportunities to endorse and work for conservative candidates in House or Senate seats unless they were assured of winning.
The most glaring oversight was Romney's refusal to do a phone recording for Massachusetts Republican Jeff Beatty, who is challenging Sen. John Kerry. "Mitt supposedly cares about Massachusetts, but won't even return phone calls asking for help," says a conservative working for Beatty in Boston. "It's a tough race, but the least he could do is help. He's showing his true colors."
Some former Romney aides were behind the recent leaks to media, including CNN, that Governor Sarah Palin was a "diva" and was going off message intentionally. The former and current Romney supporters further are pushing Romney supporters for key Republican jobs, including head of the Republican National Committee.