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Rep. Eric Cantor: Romney-Ryan Ticket Will Make ‘Life Work’ for More Americans

August 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor talks to Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff about vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, how the Republican ticket would address the needs and expectations of regular Americans, plus the political standoff in Washington between the two parties.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  For a preview of that speech and more on how the convention has gone so far, we turn to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  His home state of Virginia is one of the critical swing states this fall.

Mr. Majority Leader, it’s good to have you with us.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), House Majority Leader:  Great to be here, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, tell us something about Paul Ryan that maybe people don’t know yet.  What are we going to learn either tonight or in the days to come about him?

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  Well, what I hope that American people will see tonight is the real Paul Ryan.

There’s been a lot of talk about his being a budget wonk and into the numbers and a bean counter and all of that, which is true, because he’s a true intellect.  But I hope they see the man for who he is.  He’s a real family man.  He has a wonderful wife, Janna, who in her own right is a quite an accomplished person, has three beautiful kids, and somebody who can kick back, relax, as well as be very intense and passionate about the direction he would like to see this country go.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  We know that the vice president of the United States has to be ready to step in if, God forbid, something were to happen to the president.  Is he ready to step into the presidency?

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  Absolutely. He’s a very centered individual.  He is very grounded in roots that weren’t so glamorous coming up in life.  And the American people will hear his story tonight, hear how he lost his father and had to work hard and assume hourly wage jobs when he was young.

But he was a hard worker.  And that shines through today.  You know, I really first got to know Paul when he and I served on the Ways and Means Committee together, as you know, the tax writing committee.  And we used to spend hours talking about tax policy, economic policy, how to grow the economy, how to free up the innovative spirit of this country.

And I believe that you’re going to hear that tonight and about Paul’s vision of where we take the country at this pivotal time in our history.


GWEN IFILL:  You and he were considered to be young guns, you called yourselves, and a couple of others in the House.  But yet the House and Congress in general is not a terribly popular place these days. So how does his background in the House help him in this national race and how does it hurt?

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  Well, you know, the House has sort of been the epicenter of the debate in Washington over the last year-and-a-half.

As you know, that we have had a very different view in terms of how to take this country forward than the president has.  And, unfortunately, what we have seen is a president that’s been unwilling or not desirous of reaching across the aisle and saying, look, we can disagree on things.

Reasonable people can disagree, but let’s try and work to find some consensus, so that we can produce some results.  And I think what you will see tonight is that side of Paul Ryan, somebody who is very passionate and convicted in terms of his principles, but understands that we have got to get results for the American people.

Right now, so many Americans are just disappointed at what has been going on, and they’re looking for an alternative.  And, frankly, I think what you will see taken out of this week here in Tampa is the Republican ticket dedicated towards making life work for more Americans, and that’s the bottom line.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You know, Mr. Cantor, Republicans often say — and we’re hearing it a lot here — that the president didn’t work across the aisle, but when you talk to some Democrats, they say they think the president tried too hard and waited too long for Republicans to come over in his direction, which they were never going to do.

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  Well, as one who has had the privilege of not only representing my constituents in and around the Richmond area and throughout the 7th District of Virginia, as well as serving for majority leader, I can tell you we tried.

John Boehner, the speaker, and I tried continuously to engage the White House, engage the president throughout the entire discussions last year.  And, unfortunately, there’s just a fundamental disagreement that the president was unwilling to set aside.  And I think what people are looking for, at least what I am hearing when I’m traveling in my district and the country, is people want to see the economy improve.

They want to see the prospects for themselves, their kids, and have a better future.  They want to have some optimism.  And I think Paul’s going to bring that sunshiny optimism to the crowd tonight. And I think the American people are going to see a very genuine commitment to do things better and really try and resolve some of these very, very difficult challenges.

GWEN IFILL:  Naked political question for you, Congressman.  You’re from Virginia, a big battleground state this year.  How does the Romney-Ryan ticket win your home state?

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  Well, it is very much about jobs and the economy in Virginia.

Virginia is particularly susceptible to the president’s defense cuts.  As you know, as a result of the failure of the super committee in Congress last year, these defense cuts are going to go into effect at the end of this year.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But wasn’t that a result of both sides not coming together, sequestration?

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  Well, Judy, I think what we have done in the House is we have then gone ahead and passed a substitution for these kind of defense cut, but yet there’s been no response by the president.

We feel very strongly that, number one, we do have to defend our country, and these cuts are going to cut to the core an ability for to us effect that mission.  But also in Virginia — and, Gwen, you asked about Virginia — we are disproportionately dependent on defense dollars.

And, in fact, 9 percent of the employment in the region called Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, and Norfolk, is dependent on DOD dollars.  And that’s real jobs.  And then you think about the area up around Washington and the Pentagon and Northern Virginia, that’s going to make a huge difference for Virginia and I believe will add to the prospects for a Romney-Ryan win.

GWEN IFILL:  It’s precisely this kind of standoff that makes so many American voters impatient and makes them look at Congress and say, ah, a pox on all of your houses.

So, how do you win an election that is this close when you’re doing things or not doing things which exasperate so many Americans?

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  I think what you can show is the fact that there’s just been no results here on the part of this president and this administration.

And you have someone in Mitt Romney who has been a republican governor in probably the most democratic state in the country, Massachusetts, someone who said, you know what, I can set aside differences and try and find commonality.  And he produced results.  And that’s going to be the alternative to what’s been going on in Washington with a White House that seems to be intransigent on these issues.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Just quickly, President Obama was campaigning in Virginia today, in Charlottesville, drew a crowd of 7,500, and we know that this Romney-Ryan ticket is going to be in Virginia campaigning right after this convention.  Are they going to draw as many as 7,500 people when they campaign in Richmond, your home turf?

REP. ERIC CANTOR:  Judy, I was with Paul and Mitt the day that Mitt had announced Paul in Norfolk, and they came to Richmond.

We had overwhelmingly enthusiastic crowds.  Just about 10 days ago, Paul was in Richmond, and I think drew I think at least 4,000, to 5,000, maybe 6,000 people.  I’m confident that there is a lot of enthusiasm at home to try something different, since these policies have been so disappointing by this White House.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  House  Majority Leader Eric Cantor, thank you so much for being with us.  Good to see you.

REP. ERIC CANTOR: Judy, thank you.

GWEN IFILL: Thank you.