Like many recently lifted Republicans, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor still thinks
long-blue Pennsylvania can be won by GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
But just in case Romney doesn’t reverse the state’s 20-year trend of voting Democrat in presidential elections, Cantor is working intently to expand GOP control of the House with conservative first-time Pennsylvania congressional candidates.
“I’m actually bullish on prospects of increasing the majority of House Republicans,” Cantor said in Harrisburg today as part of his national effort to tighten the Republican grip on the House. “I’m traveling the country … and I feel very confident that we’re going to have a really good night for the congressional races in the House.”
The budget hawk and tea party favorite spent the day in Pittsburgh, assisting Keith Rothfus, the GOP challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Critz in the 12th congressional district.
He arrived in Harrisburg late Friday afternoon to assist Republican Scott Perry in his effort to replace retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, whose 19th congressional district encompasses all of York and Adams counties and part of Cumberland County.
“There are some very able candidates on the Republican side of the isle taking their races very seriously,” Cantor said of Keystone State candidates. “I’m here with Scott Perry today in Harrisburg for that reason because I think this state is one that can be in play.”
The man credited with almost singlehandedly stalemating Obama in his first term also spoke with The Patriot-News about Romney’s Pennsylvania prospects, the possibility of civility returning to Washington, and Thursday’s debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.
“I’m sure Paul is going to knock it out of the park,” Cantor said of his close House ally. “He is one that we look to more than any one else in terms of budget matters in the House. I’m looking forward to it and I’m sure the public will see the Paul Ryan I know.”
Romney’s debate defeat of Obama last week came for the same reasons, he said.
“The debate performance that the governor gave was fantastic compared to the presidents which I thought was poor,” Cantor added. “I think people saw Mitt Romney for the man we all know he is, a very capable, straight forward individual who understands how to build businesses and create jobs.”
During his stop in the Mid-state, Cantor spoke privately with an exclusive gathering of area business executives at the Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC and appeared as the main attraction at Perry’s $250-a-head fundraiser at the West Shore Country Club.
And while Cantor said Obama squandered an historic opportunity to defuse the partisan friction in Washington Cantor himself has also fomented, the highest ranking Jewish American politician praised Romney as the candidate that can restore open lines of communication between the parties.
“If Mitt Romney wins, I can tell you you have an individual there that has a proven track record of working with people of different backgrounds and of other political persuasions, Cantor said. “His performance in Massachusetts is proof that Mitt understands the need to bring people together.
“And I believe he understands what I believe is missing from this president, which is the willingness to say Hey, reasonable people can disagree, so lets just work to set aside the disagreements and find where we can work in common,” he added.
Cantor went on to elaborate a number of issues, as well as Washington partisanship and his desire to elect more likeminded Republicans to Congress.
“It is that sense that we need partners in Washington to solve problems rather than adversaries that make it more difficult for folks in the private sector to see a better future.
On Obamas role in the current stand-off with House Republicans:
“This president never really reached out and tried to develop the human relationships that it took to produce a result, and to work together in a bipartisan fashion, and I believe that thats partly the reason why we were able to regain the majority [in 2010] because the agenda that resulted from that kind of operation was an agenda that was too extreme for the American people.
“I’m hopeful that after this election we can return to the sense that you have to sit down and talk, and you have to sit down and recognize [that] you don’t want to have to ask people to compromise their principles, but you want them to cooperate.
On convincing voters from different political bents to support GOP candidates:
“I was in Watertown, N.Y. the other day at a small manufacturer of 150 employees and I can assure you it wasn’t all likeminded folks there. But theres one thing in common everywhere I go and that is a need for a better future, a need for growth and prosperity. And the formula for that success to me is to empower small businessmen women so they can get back in the game again. And right now because of the tax situation and the uncertainty surrounding that, and because of the regulatory environment that has hamstrung so many of our entrepreneurs, you’re seeing a lack of confidence that I would hope after this election will return so we can get America working again.”
On GOP skepticism of the recently announced 7.8 unemployment rate:
“I’m assuming the numbers are what they are. But I know that that kind of improvement is not enough. I mean, yes, we want improvement at every step, but we shouldn’t have to have a new norm where were accepting that kind of job creation. Were America! If it is not for us and our economic engine, I don’t know what the world looks like. This is certainly, and I think the president will even admit, this is not where we want to be. And I believe it has been the policies coming out of his administration that have been so detrimental to job growth and business growth.”
On the possibility of any legislative action after the election but before the next president is inaugurated:
“We don’t believe, nor does Mitt Romney, that taxes ought to go up on anybody, especially in a tough economy. I do think that that issue is going to be resolved.”
And on Pennsylvania still being in play for Romney:
“What I see are Republicans that are extremely fired-up and feel very good about what they’re seeing in their communities on the ground, so I wouldn’t take Pennsylvania out of play on the national scene.”