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Why Didn’t Eric Cantor Say No?

Patrick O’Connor explains why Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) broke with the rest of the House leadership and voted for the punitive AIG bonus tax.

Cantor is playing the outside game. Since becoming whip in the wake of a second straight anti-GOP wave election in 2008, the Virginian has quickly become the public face of House Republicans — in part because he’s willed it so, in part because the Democrats seem happy to elevate him as the GOP’s scary new “Mr. No”… an outside group targeting Republicans called constituents in a handful of GOP districts to warn them that their congressman was opposing legislation to recoup the bonuses because Cantor’s wife works for a bank that receives TARP funds.

Republicans are stoking populist outrage over AIG, but they were unable to own every angle of the scandal the way they’d hoped. The GOP’s resolution to pull back the bonuses simply didn’t get them credit — Democrats boxed them out as the party with the plan to punish the company. Looking ahead, Republicans are trying to change the focus of the AIG outrage to the line in the stimulus bill that protected bonuses offered before Feb. 11.

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