McCain vice-president list gets Jewish flavour

By Nathan Guttman, August 8, 2008

A young Jewish congressman has officially been added to Republican candidate John McCain's shortlist for sharing the presidential ticket.

Eric Cantor would not comment on the issue, but press reports in Washington quoted officials in the McCain campaign confirming that Mr Cantor was asked to provide documents to the committee advising Mr McCain on choosing a vice-president, indicating that he is being seriously considered.

Representing the state of Virginia, Mr Cantor, 45, is the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives, surrounded by 29 other Jewish members - all Democrats.

Mr Cantor holds a senior leadership post as the minority's chief deputy whip, and leads the Republican Jewish outreach effort to win over voters who traditionally side with the Democrats.


"The reactions I'm hearing from Jewish voters are excellent," Mr Cantor told the Jewish Forward newspaper last week, adding that he expects to set a new record in Jewish support for the Republicans, which reached 25 per cent in George Bush's second term.

As vice-president, Mr Cantor could push more Jewish voters towards Mr McCain, though the effect is not expected to be dramatic. When another Jewish lawmaker, Joe Lieberman, ran for vice-president in 2000, polls showed this did not make a difference with Jewish voters and the patterns remained similar to previous elections. With Mr Cantor onside, Mr McCain might do better with the Jewish community of Florida, a state that went to the Republicans in previous elections but is now being eyed by Democrats.

But Mr McCain's aides are looking for more than the Jewish vote. As a congressman from Virginia, Mr Cantor could help keep the state Republican in light of Barack Obama's effort to push it over to the Democrats. Mr Cantor, a hard-line conservative, would also help Mr McCain with religious-right voters who fear he is too moderate on social and religious issues.

At 45, Mr Cantor is not only 27 years younger than Mr McCain, he is even younger than Mr Obama. But with youth comes inexperience. The McCain campaign will have a difficult time attacking Mr Obama on this issue if Mr McCain himself has an inexperienced politician on board with him.

While on the shortlist, Mr Cantor is only one of several candidates and political analysts warn that his chances are small. Still, as one Jewish communal activist put it, the talk about a possible Jewish vice-president did more to boost Jewish voter's interest in Mr McCain than almost everything else done so far by the campaign.

Last updated: 10:35pm, August 7 2008