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Cantor for Veep Movement Gaining Steam

Conservatives wary of John McCain and worried about who he'll choose for a running mate are offering up ideas left and -- more to the point -- right. One of the ideas gaining momentum in conservative circles is Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

McCain-Cantor Button
McCain-Cantor Campaign Button

Cantor, the 45-year-old Republican chief deputy whip of the House, has three great attributes: youth, conservative bona fides and geographic desirability, as Virginia will likely be a crucial swing state in this year's presidential election.

All of which may explain why McCain had a private lunch last weekend with Cantor and his wife, Diana, in the Hamptons at the residence of Revlon mogul Ronald Perelman, a major GOP donor and hefty contributor to Jewish causes. (Perelman held a fundraiser that same evening for McCain.)

Asked about the lunch and whether McCain discussed the possibility of choosing Cantor as his running mate, Cantor spokesman Rob Collins told us what we hate hearing most: "No comment."

But someone who isn't shy at all about touting Cantor's prospects on the GOP presidential ticket is Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.), whose district is next door to Cantor's.

Goode, who has become Cantor's No. 1 booster, tells the Sleuth McCain should choose the Virginian for two main reasons: he's a prodigious fundraiser, something McCain desperately needs to compete against Barack Obama's money machine, and he's a true conservative.

Goode says by choosing Cantor, McCain could stem a threatened tide of wary conservatives turning to Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr. "We need some enthusiasm generated with the conservative base," Goode told the Sleuth by telephone. "If not, I'm worried that you would have more defections to Bob Barr or [Constitution Party presidential candidate] Chuck Baldwin."

He points out that Cantor has been "consistently pro-life" with a 100 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee, is pro gun, and is a strong advocate of border security, a supporter of the Federal Marriage Protection Act and strong on national security.

"But he gets along well with the more moderate wing of the party, plus, he works pretty well with Democrats," Goode adds.

Goode also made the case for Cantor for vice president in a letter he sent to McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. "With Eric on the ticket, Virginia will remain a red state, and John McCain will be elected president of the United States," Goode wrote.

While Cantor isn't among the most widely mentioned or well known of the contenders, he is getting a lot of fuel from various groups and polls. JTA, the Jewish news service, has been touting Cantor, who is the only Jewish Republican in the House, to be McCain's running mate. A recent National Journal poll of anonymous congressional Republicans put Cantor as the second most favored GOP vice presidential pick, behind Mitt Romney. There's even a Web site promoting Cantor for vice president.

And there are McCain-Cantor buttons, too. Goode commissioned the buttons and is handing them out everywhere he goes, including to the Virginia Cantaloupe Festival this weekend.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  July 25, 2008; 2:00 PM ET
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