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Virginia's Cantor on Front Line In GOP Anti-Obama Campaign

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Lois Romano speaks with House Minority Whip, Rep. Eric Cantor. "I'm really concerned about the direction that this bill will take our country. There has been consistently an effort on the part of the Majority in this House to squeeze out the kind of coverage that they don't like and try and impose a preferred type of coverage."Video by Jennifer Crandall and Elaine McMillion/The Washington Post Edited by Elaine McMillion
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 17, 2009

If the Obama honeymoon is fast coming to an end, there is one man who gets much credit for helping to bring it to a close: Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip who has feverishly worked to galvanize his party against the president's agenda.

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The 45-year-old father of three wasn't quite the household name a year ago when John McCain considered him for vice president. But by February, there was President Obama announcing at an economic summit that he was "going to keep talking to Eric Cantor" because "someday, sooner or later, he's going to say, 'Boy, Obama had a good idea.' "

Now, with a weakened Republican Party watching its stars unravel in sex scandals, it is Cantor who is getting The Mention as a potential presidential rival to Obama for 2012.

He was one of the first to call the president's stimulus plan a "flop" as the unemployment rate rose. While many experts agree that it may be early to see the impact of the $787 billion economic bailout, the attacks led by Cantor and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) have forced the administration to spend time defending it.

Now Cantor is setting his sights on the House Democratic health-care reform bill.

Romano: You're not happy with the health-care bill as it is now?

Cantor: No. You know, because I'm really concerned about the direction that this bill will take our country in terms of the health care issue. . . . There has been consistently an effort on the part of the majority in this House to squeeze out the kind of coverage that they don't like and try and impose a preferred type of coverage. The other thing that bothers me, though, is the insistence that somehow we need to have the government being a competitor to the private-sector plans.

Romano: What kind of House speaker has Nancy Pelosi been?

Cantor: I think she's been a very effective speaker in terms of advocating her agenda. Again, I think that that agenda is very much outside the mainstream of this country.

Romano: Are you being a little premature calling the stimulus plan a "flop"?

Cantor: The president was straight up when he said to me, "We got to pass this bill now. We got to pass this bill to avoid unemployment from going any higher than 8.5 percent."

This is President Obama's economy. He owns this economy. He owes it to us to own up to the fact that this stimulus has not worked.

Romano: Do you see anybody in your party being able to beat Barack Obama in 2012? What about you?

Cantor: Now, listen, I'm not running for president.

Romano: But you don't rule it out, do you?

Cantor: Yes, I rule it out.

Note: Chapters 2 and 3 of the interview will be posted online Monday morning.



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