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John McCain may turn to Virginia for a VP candidate

August 3, 2008 |  1:40 pm

First came speculation that Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was on Barack Obama's short list for the Democrats' vice presidential nod.

Rep. Eric Cantor (right) has been asked by John McCain's campaign for personal documents -- a clue that he's under consideration for the #2 spot.Today, the Associated Press is reporting that John McCain's campaign has asked another son of the Old Dominion, Rep. Eric Cantor, for personal documents -- a pretty good indication that he is under scrutiny as a running mate for the presumptive Republican nominee.

Cantor, 45, has racked up overwhelming victory margins from his Richmond district since he first ran for Congress in 2000. He serves on the powerful Ways & Means Committee and, as chief deputy minority whip, is a member of the House GOP leadership. As the only Jewish Republican in the House, according to the Almanac of American Politics, he has been in a position to reach out both to Jewish voters and, through his strong support of Israel, to his party's Christian conservative base.

Why else might McCain like him? Well, ...

Cantor is a prodigious fundraiser and serves as finance chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. His voting record in the House is solidly conservative -- more so than McCain's, according to several national ratings. And given that the veep nominee is often called on to take more pointed positions than the person at the top of the ticket, it probably doesn't hurt one bit that Cantor was labeled a "Bush attack dog" by the chairman of Virginia's Democratic Party during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Through a spokesman, Cantor declined comment, the AP reported, and the McCain team offered a "no comment" as well.

So why are both presidential candidates looking at running mates from Virginia? In today's red state/blue state divide, Virginia is decidedly purple: The governor is a Democrat, but the lieutenant governor and the attorney general are Republicans. The state's two senators are split -- Republican John Warner, who is retiring this year, and Democrat Jim Webb, an early Obama veep favorite who has removed himself from consideration -- and the congressional delegation has eight Republicans and three Democrats (with the Dems targeting four of those GOP seats this year).

Virginia has not voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964 (when incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson crushed another Arizona Republican senator, Barry Goldwater), but the Obama folks are so optimistic about their chances that they've opened 28 campaign offices across the state. And with speculation rampant that Kaine will be Obama's #2 pick, McCain may have his eye on Cantor to keep those 13 electoral votes in the GOP column.

-- Leslie Hoffecker

Photo: McCain and Cantor (right) at a Feb. 13, 2008, news conference; credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

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