Eric Cantor is being vetted by John McCain for the vice presidential slot. Congressman Cantor may very well be the best possible Republican to run with McCain – for several reasons.
First, Cantor is very conservative. Virginia, a conservative state, has eleven congressmen. Only one of those eleven has a higher lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union than does Eric Cantor. No one, anywhere, was more conservative than Cantor in the last year of congressional ratings, 2007: Congressman Cantor had a perfect one hundred percent rating from the ACU. McCain needs a conservative to enthuse the Republican base and balance the Republican ticket. Cantor does that nicely.
Second, Cantor is young, handsome, and articulate. McCain is not. Fairly or unfairly, that counts in presidential elections. Obama won the nomination largely because he was pretty. Some voters support Obama the candidate because they have a crush on Obama the man. McCain cannot compete against that, but Cantor can.
Congressman Cantor not only looks handsome, but he is a new handsome face. His very obscurity will mean lots of media attention on him when the campaign starts in earnest. Weary voters – voters who are even weary of gazing at a photograph of the Messiah Obama – are looking for something, anything, exciting. Cantor could bring that bit of flash which the McCain campaign needs and which the Obama campaign, by sheer fatigue with the candidate, cannot generate.
Third, Cantor is Jewish. He is not just Jewish, but a Jew who keeps kosher, like Joe Lieberman. Like Lieberman, who takes his Judaism seriously, Cantor is a social conservative. That is a twofer. Cantor will attract those social conservatives who are overwhelmingly Christian because they rightly see in Cantor a real ally in our common war against the muck of modern culture. This is the particular part of the conservative base that McCain needs most to reassure. A religiously serious Eric Cantor does that.
Beyond that, Eric Cantor will also attract Jewish voters. Many Jews feel a bit uneasy about Obama and his anti-Semitic friends. These Jews are also disturbed at the summary dismissal of a serious Jewish Democrat like Joe Lieberman, the Democrat’s vice presidential candidate eight years ago. Lieberman is a strong McCain supporter, and that support will provide a strong push for ambivalent Jewish voters to tilt toward McCain.
Placing a religiously serious Jew on the Republican ticket with McCain will provide an even stronger push. In a close election – and this looks to be a close election – a swing of Jewish voters to McCain could translate into victories in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and other states that McCain could either win or lose. Those battleground states are the keys to victory for McCain.
Fourth, Congressman Cantor is a popular politician from Virginia, itself a swing state in this election. Fundamentally, Virginia is conservative and Republican, but with a popular Democrat governor (Tim Kaine) on the ticket, Obama would have a real chance of carrying Virginia. If Cantor were on the Republican side, though, McCain would have the edge in Virginia.
Perhaps the most appealing part of a McCain-Cantor ticket is the elevation, without a primary battle, of Cantor to presumptive nominee when McCain leaves office (which could easily be 2012.) The image of a young, handsome, very conservative heir apparent who is also an observant Jew could make Democrats break out in cold sweats at night. At the top of the ticket, Cantor could put Illinois, California, New Jersey and even New York in play.
In four years, the fabulously successful Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a devout Catholic who is just as conservative and bright as Cantor, could be a dream vice presidential candidate aside Eric Cantor. That very conservative and ethnically atypical ticket would make Democrats have to fight hard for votes outside the traditional white, conservative Christian Republican base, but would not lose a single conservative Christian vote in the process of putting so many other voters in play.
Win this election, and maybe win the next few elections too: What would that mean for conservatives? It would mean a conservative Supreme Court, an American victory in the war against global terrorism, and an articulate, sincere expression of the values of conservatives.
That all makes a very good case for Eric Cantor.