“He, more than anyone else, has tied himself to the tea party. And the tea party is exceedingly unpopular with Democrats and independents,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “He has become the face of Republican obstructionism.”
From fundraising pitches to presidential addresses, Cantor is the central character in a loosely coordinated effort to personify and demonize Republican efforts to upend President Obama and the Democratic agenda.
Democratic fundraising overtures warn of “the Boehner-Cantor takeover,” giving Cantor equal billing as House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). In last month’s debate over disaster funding, Senate Democrats coined the term “Cantor Doctrine” to describe the majority leader’s effort to pair relief funds with offsetting spending cuts, and last week in Dallas, Obama accused Cantor of singularly blocking consideration of his jobs proposal. Obama invoked a teacher who he said would benefit from his plan.
“Mr. Cantor should come down to Dallas,” Obama said, and “tell her why she doesn’t deserve to get a paycheck again. Come tell her students why they don’t deserve to have their teacher back.”
Eventually, Democrats will have to turn their attention to the winner of the GOP presidential primary. But perhaps for the forseeable future on Capitol Hill, they hope to use Cantor as a stand-in — and it is not a role Cantor minds playing.
“They are cementing Leader Cantor’s reputation as a defender of the free market, entrepreneurism and job creators, which is a clear contrast with President Obama’s plans for more government-stimulus spending and tax hikes on working families and small businesses,” said Laena Fallon, Cantor’s spokeswoman. “The president has handed Leader Cantor a national megaphone.”
Cantor’s embrace of that megaphone also points to the difficulty Democrats might confront in trying to elevate Cantor into the role of opposition lightning. He is not Jim Wright, Newt Gingrich or Nancy Pelosi.
In 1989, Republicans pushed then-Speaker Wright (D-Tex.) into retirement by bashing him for money he made from the publication of a book. Democrats returned the favor by forcing then-Speaker Gingrich (R-Ga.) from office in 1998. Over the past decade, Democrats made then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) their political bogeyman, and a year ago, Republicans made then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the focus of their successful campaign to win the House majority.