Despite the rising political profile of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) appears unaffected, showing no signs of worry that his standing in the Republican Party will be eclipsed by the young gun.
The jury is still out on whether the Boehner-Cantor leadership team will continue to function in relative harmony, but so far, the two have avoided the political pitfalls that have torn apart predecessors such as Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), whose relationship slowly eroded as Armeys profile grew.
Observers have different takes on why Boehner has such a laissez-faire attitude toward Cantors new public role. Some suggested it is simply Boehners laid-back personality, others say he is comfortable delegating to his lieutenants and still others say the Ohio Republican is allowing his ultimate successor to build a name for himself as he trains to take the Conference reigns.
Cantors a marathon runner, not a sprinter, one GOP aide said. Its fairly clear to most that Cantor will be in the prime position to step into the leader role when Boehner decides to step down.
Boehner has given no indication that he plans on ending his tenure in the House anytime soon, and despite Cantors designs on continuing his ascent up the GOP ladder, sources close to both lawmakers said they respect each other and, for now, are focused on party-building and getting GOP ideas heard, rather than fighting with one another.
Boehner doesnt, and the rest of us dont, mind that Eric is shining out there because we understand that if your friend does well, it helps all of us be better, GOP Policy Chairman Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) said.
In fact, for years Boehner has publicly described Cantor as the future of the party and tried to help elevate the junior Virginian through the ranks.
Boehner believes that encouraging emerging stars in our Conference is part of the leaders job, and Eric Cantor is definitely a prime example, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. Rep. Cantor is a master of the entrepreneurial insurgency style Boehner has worked to instill in our entire Conference, and he has taken the lead in developing the Republican better solutions the American people deserve.
After his election in 2007 as Minority Leader, Boehner added Cantor to the permanent roster of the three elected GOP leaders who met daily to plan strategy.
Sources close to Cantor and Boehner describe their relationship as a cordial one, and while not close on a personal level, they have developed a productive working relationship. However, at least one run-in earlier this year revealed that the rapport is a fragile one.
In January, a misunderstanding erupted over comments by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) in which they characterized the whip operation as inactive during the vote on the economic stimulus package. The remarks prompted a heated confrontation between Cantor and Boehner at the House Republican retreat. Boehner and Pence later apologized to Cantor and to the entire Conference for the misstatements.