The GOP is undeniably battered and bruised. Mitt Romney was crushed in a near-landslide to President Obama, Republicans actually lost Senate seats in what should have been a brutal cycle for Democrats. And on fights from the fiscal cliff to the debt ceiling, the House GOP doesn’t seem to have the luster it once did. Perhaps that’s why House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is pushing a plan to soften the party’s image and broaden its political appeal.
This week, Cantor visited a prep school in D.C. to “gather information for a speech” on rebranding the GOP. Cantor, who has a reputation for being among the most strident leaders in the GOP’s Tea Party wing, was seen picking up kids and playing with toy dinosaurs. He joked with eighth grade girls about a story they were reading, telling them “Now I understand why you think boys are stupid.”
Cantor elaborated on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday on what he hopes to accomplish. The goal, he said, is to help real people through economic growth, immigration, education and job creation.
“I think we learned a lot of lessons from the last election,” the Virginia lawmaker said, noting “I don’t think we’ve completed the sentence, which is what we’re trying to do is to help people. We’re trying to do it to help the moms and dads that are having a difficult time right now.”
He added, “ I get it. I’m a parent and I know what working parents are going through and trying to address their needs of educating their children. We’re trying to address the needs of health care costs rising in terms of the implementation of the president’s health care law”
But is Cantor—the man who has spent the last several years criticizing proposed tax hikes for the rich, Obamacare, and any number of other popular kitchen table issues—the right man for the job?
“No, he’s not,” Jamie Chandler, a political science professor at Hunter College, told MSNBC.com, saying Cantor’s attempts are going to “come across as empty” since he’s long been “anti-education and anti-children under the guise of fiscal conservatism.”
Chandler argued that the GOP still isn’t addressing the root of the problem—their policy platform—and are instead offering only distracting “bells and whistles.”
Keith Appell, a conservative-leaning strategist, disagreed, saying for years he’s been urging GOPers to make it clear how conservative policies really help people and to get out of the beltway and on the ground to deliver that message.
“The messenger matters less than the effort to deliver the message,” he told MSNBC.com.
At the conservative American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday afternoon, Cantor said he’d like the GOP “to focus our attention on what lies beyond” the fiscal debates, adding over the “next two years, the House Majority will pursue an agenda based on a shared vision of creating the conditions for health, happiness and prosperity for more Americans and their families.”
Cantor pushed for granting more visas for skilled workers, lowering healthcare costs, and reconfiguring education costs. He also said he would back a path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
“One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home,” he said.
Cantor said he hopes President Obama will team up with the GOP to find solution on healthcare, immigration and education to “provide relief to so many millions of Americans who simply want their life to work again.”