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Cantor to Present Way Forward for GOP

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. Photo by Tom Williams/Roll Call.

The Morning Line

In the aftermath of the 2012 campaign, which saw President Obama re-elected by a wide electoral margin and Democrats add to their numbers on Capitol Hill, there has been a fair amount said and written about the Republican Party’s soul searching.

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., hopes to present a way forward out of the political darkness in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington titled “Making Life Work,” which will offer a more cheerful vision for how government can improve the lives of the American people.

“Government policy should aim to strike a balance between what is needed to advance the next generation, what we can afford, what is a federal responsibility and what is necessary to ensure our children are safe, healthy and able to reach their dreams,” Cantor plans to say, according to prepared remarks released by his office.

The second ranking House Republican has looked to expand his influence in recent months, especially on debt and deficit issues, voting against the fiscal cliff agreement that passed in early January. The move put him at odds with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who was trying to wrangle the GOP conference to back the measure.

Previewing his speech Tuesday morning in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Cantor said he thinks GOP lawmakers “learned a lot of lessons from the last election.”

He and his colleagues must do a better job of explaining to the public “why we are for the things that we’re for,” Cantor said.

But Cantor indicated that does not mean the party should abandon its core principles. “We’re going to continue to demonstrate our commitment to fiscal discipline and want the president to join us,” he said. “But we also in all of this have really, I don’t think, completed the sentence, which is we’re trying to do this to help people. We’re trying to do this to help the moms and dads out there who are having a very difficult time right now.”

The agenda Cantor will put forward Tuesday is expected to include fixing the education system, simplifying the tax code, reducing health care costs and reforming the country’s immigration system.

“While we are a nation that allows anyone to start anew, we are also a nation of laws, and that’s what makes tackling the issue of immigration reform so difficult,” Cantor will say. “We must balance respect for the rule of law and respect for those waiting to enter this country legally, with care for people and families, most of whom just want to make a better life, and contribute to America.”

The National Journal’s Ron Fournier reports that Cantor’s attempt to soften the GOP’s image also included a visit Monday to a private school in Washington, D.C.

“Y’all keep up the good work, OK?” he told a class of teenagers while walking out of their class, past a bright yellow sign that said, “Bully Free Zone.”

Partisan Democrats love to call Republicans bullies, belittling GOP policies as cruel and heartless. Left unanswered, demagoguery sticks — which is the point of Cantor’s charm offensive.

The question for Cantor and other Republican lawmakers is whether they will be able to make inroads with voters that supported President Obama and congressional Democrats just by tweaking their messaging, or if it will also have to be accompanied by a broader shift in strategy — at least on some issues.


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