Cantor Says GOP 2012ers Should Embrace Medicare Reform; Dismisses Own White House Run, but Suggests Paul Ryan Mount Campaign

By John R Parkinson

May 23, 2011 2:31pm

ABC News John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor unequivocally shut the door on a “Cantor for President” 2012 campaign today, but urged another top House Republican – Rep. Paul Ryan – to launch his own run for the GOP nomination.

“Sure,” Cantor answered when asked if Ryan, a seven-term lawmaker, should get into the race. “Paul’s about real leadership. I think that’s what this public so desperately wants to do right now is they want to see Washington that will lead. They don’t want to see individuals that dismiss the current problem that’s something that we can just sweep under the rug.”

Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget committee, has received both cheers and jeers from some contenders for the GOP nomination, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who started off his own candidacy on a rocky note last week by attacking the Ryan budget as “right-wing social engineering” only to quickly walk back on those comments amid a firestorm of disapproval from prominent conservatives, including Cantor.

When asked whether support for Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget reform would be a prerequisite for candidates seeking the nomination, Cantor said that candidates entering the 2012 race should “embrace a leadership role that takes the tough positions” and suggested that Ryan had demonstrated those qualities through his controversial plan to reduce the deficit by taking on entitlement reform.

“As far as the Ryan budget is concerned, what Paul Ryan is about is real leadership, and that’s what we believe we’re about in this House. House Republicans are the only Republican game in town, if you will, in Washington, and what we committed to is to frankly lead to change the status quo,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “It’s taking on the tough challenges, it’s putting solutions out there, and it’s trying to deliver results. That’s much different than what the status quo has been in Washington for some time, and it is what the times demand.”

The “Path to Prosperity, which passed the House on April 15, is likely to be a political lightening rod in the 2012 election, with Democrats up and down the ticket already fiercely pounding at the plan they say would “end Medicare as we know it.” 

Cantor also expressed his disappointment that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels declined to seek the nomination, but said there is still time for additional candidates to round out the Republican field.

“Our field is a field that still has a lot of time. I think the candidates who are in the race are strong candidates. It is early still. These campaigns will begin to focus as the primary season nears,” Cantor added. “The choice is going to be: are you for more government and more taxes, or are you for more growth and more jobs? That’s going to be the choice, so candidates that want to embrace that – all in.”

Ryan, who last week decided against running for Wisconsin’s open Senate seat, appeared on “Meet the Press” Sunday and flatly rejected a potential bid for the White House as well.

“I'm not running for president,” Ryan, R-Wis. said. “I feel, because we are in a big budget debate, I'm in a great position of Chairman of the House Budget Committee to really weigh in on this debate, and I feel, at the moment we are in, I want to stay focused on where we are right now.  And that is getting our fiscal house in order.” 

Asked whether he would consider mounting a “Cantor for President” campaign, the No. 2 House Republican emphatically rejected the idea.

“Absolutely not,” Cantor, a six-term lawmaker, deadpanned. “I have no intention or desire to run.”

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