This morning, I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who is here in Denver making the interview rounds. As he phrased it, he's here with the McCain "Truth Squad". Their objective is to "cut through" the glitz and celebrity this week, to highlight what millions of Americans already believe: Senator Obama is not ready to lead.
Cantor was in good humor. I asked him how he was enjoying his time behind enemy lines, and he said it was "eye-opening." I told him I need to know if he agreed with my friends at RedState.com that he would be an "awesome and totally gnarly" VP pick for Senator McCain. The widely talked about short-lister laughed and replied that it isn't about him, it's about John McCain having the experience and wisdom to lead.
Cantor and other McCain supporters are watching this convention carefully. The Democrats are going to dedicate a lot of their impressive air time this week to trying to establish as fact their election-year refrain that Senator McCain is just George Bush II. They'll push the talking points established in a series of DNC ads under Dean; ads which use selective quotes and dishonest framing to cast John McCain in the image they've designed for him. I've written about these ads a number of times at Political Machine. Eric Cantor will be making the television and radio rounds meeting those tactics with facts.
The Democrats are also, obviously, trying to sell Obama. As I pointed out here, the speakers last night pushed the value of community organizing to a ridiculous extent. They are trying to establish it as crucial experience to fill Obama's empty resume. Cantor points out that what little record there is to go on, coupled with the rare specific that Obama is willing to share about his policy prescriptions, show he'll be a tax raiser, and that he'll cut the legs out from under free trade. A combination that could spell not only recession, but even depression, if Obama takes office next year.
Like all of us here, Congressman Cantor is acutely aware of the tension between disgruntled Hillary voters and the rest of the party, despite all the protestation otherwise. It is also clear that many Obama faithful believe the Clintons are deliberately drawing the spotlight from Senator Obama. Cantor noted that the 18 million votes Hillary received, compared to the 10,000 won by Biden, certainly would make any bitterness on the part of Hillary supporters understandable.
I suggested that the week is full of the glamour of Senator Obama's celebrity. He laughed and remarked that the Republican Convention next week will probably have its share of pomp and circumstance. I'm sure it will, although I'll note without the American Idol-ready stage. You're probably engrossed with the idea, like I am, that we might be treated to a 3AM text message that reads "CANTOR" in the next week or so. The Congressman thought that was pretty funny. Hey, he didn't say we wouldn't right?
Cantor is a short-lister for a reason. Just as we saw with the Democrats, wooing Virginia will be an important move this election cycle; And Cantor is popular with the base and grassroots. His being here in Denver is a good move for the McCain campaign. News organizations of course relish pulling in the opposition, and Republican voters will enjoy his rapid response to the Dean attack machine. Eric Cantor may be behind enemy lines, but he seems well-armed. After all, isn't that what a floor fight is all about?
This blog cross-posted at Political Machine.