It’s a bit like Bill endorsing Hillary, Penn endorsing Teller, or ham endorsing eggs. The news, which came while I was eating dinner Thursday night, that former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has endorsed Jeb! Bush for president, gave me my biggest laugh in weeks. I’m just glad my mouth wasn’t full when I first heard it.
In an election cycle where there is every indication that being an establishment candidate will almost certainly lead to a loss, Jeb! now has a big air-kiss from a guy who has already lost because he was too establishment. Did Jeb! know this was coming? Was there any way he could have headed it off? Will he send someone to loosen Cantor’s tie-rods?
Cantor, a 12-term former congressman from Virginia, lost a Republican primary in 2014 to an almost unknown conservative opponent — economics professor David Brat — when Republicans in his district decided Cantor had wandered too far off the conservative reservation and was concerning himself too much with national Republican infighting and fund-raising and too little with his district. One of the issues his suburban Richmond constituents saw Cantor as weak on is immigration. He whooped up a Republican version of the Dream Act. And he was seen by many of his former voters, with reason, as a big government, big lobbyist, big business, big campaign money, big Washington kind of guy.
Sound familiar, Jeb!? Though Jeb! has hauled in an amount of campaign cash that exceeds the GDP of a fair fraction of the countries in the United Nations, most of it from establishment sources, the latest Quinnipiac poll puts his support among Republican primary voters at a feeble seven percent. This may be because he is weak on immigration, and is seen by many voters as a big government, big lobbyist, big business, big campaign money kind of guy. (It also doesn’t help that as a campaigner he’s as boring as Hillary — maybe more so as he’s not involved in serial scandals.) With support from guys like Cantor, and a little work, Jeb! may be able to get that support to, say, three or four percent.