Eric Cantor on Limbaugh and on Washington overreacting to the economy

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor gave President Obama a thumbs-down thus far as the newly elected commander-in-chief. "I don’t think that everyone would give him good grades," Cantor said. Cantor was appearing at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast.

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor warned Thursday that the budget House and Senate Democrats are poised to pass is a “radical departure from what most Americans think” government spending should be and risks overreacting to the nation’s economic crisis.

When word of Cantor’s comments at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast were posted on, the Democratic Party responded immediately. “On the day we learned that jobless claims rose to their highest levels in 26 years, Eric Cantor’s charge that anyone is ‘overreacting’ to this economic crisis typifies the Republican just say ‘No’ approach,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan in a statement.

Rush's role

Mr. Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House, spoke of overreacting in response to a question about Rush Limbaugh’s role in the GOP. “Rush has got ideas. He’s got following. He believes in the conservative principles that many of us believe in -- of lower taxes, or making sure that we turn back towards a focus on entrepreneurialism in this country, to promoting innovation and not stamping that out by overreacting, if you will, which this town often does, to crisis,” Cantor said.

He then went on to paraphrase President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as saying, “we are not going to miss the opportunity to take advantage of this crisis because we are going to do all the things we couldn’t get done before.”

Obama's grade: incomplete

When asked to rate Mr. Obama’s job performance, Cantor replied in quite a measured way for a top political spokesman. “As a personality, he is very engaging, he is very smart. He is historic,” Cantor began. The Virginia Republican noted that the president had not yet been in office 100 days. “I don’t think that everyone would give him good grades. Obviously the selection of cabinet nominees has been very, very rocky. I think on the issue of most import -- the economy -- the jury is still out. Some of the moves have not been effective. I think the markets and the investing public are really sitting there wondering what is going on.”

Those who were looking to Tuesday’s congressional election in upstate New York for a sense of what the public is thinking about Obama’s policies did not get clarity. The election was for the House seat vacated when New York Gov. David Paterson appointed Kirsten Gillibrand to the Senate to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton. Democratic political newcomer Scott Murphy, a major supporter of Obama’s policies, was locked in a tight race with longtime Republican state legislator Jim Tedisco, an Obama critic. Republicans have a 75,000 voter advantage in the district. The results were so close the race will be decided by absentee ballots.

“I think it is a tremendous showing,” Cantor said of the outcome, given “the enormous amount funding that the other side put into this race.” He claimed the results to date showed, “the middle-of-the-road folks who determine elections ... are not embracing this out-of-control spending, this increased borrowing and the prescriptions coming from Washington.”

Cantor said he was “very confident” that Republicans will pick up House seats in 2010, and he did not rule out the prospect of regaining a majority.

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