Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) generated the kind of buzz other politicians covet when he launched his bid to help rebrand the Republican Party last spring. Television crews and reporters wedged themselves among the crowd of party faithful to cover the National Council for a New America’s first event at a packed pizza parlor in an Arlington, Va., strip mall. The resulting coverage dominated cable news chatter for the next week. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney were also on board.
Anyone hear from them – since then?
Since its launch, the National Council hasn’t held a single public event, despite more than 5,000 invitations to take their show out on the road. Congressional ethics rules limit what Cantor can do with the group because he launched it from his leadership office, making it harder to organize events and recruit partners. Despite that caution, the group is still taking heat from outside watchdog groups that argue he is violating the spirit, and perhaps the letter, of those rules.
Furthermore, the Council has come under criticism from conservatives, like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who made fun of the group for creating a “listening tour” inside the Beltway “bubble…”
Democrats – and some Republicans – have since derided the group for failing to capitalize on the early buzz. The Democratic National Committee issued nine press releases slamming the group shortly after its launch…
And even if the group itself is not publicly claiming credit for any new ideas or outreach beyond the Beltway, its members remain active. Recently, Barbour and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, met with Cantor’s whip team to talk strategy in the health care fight.
Strategy? “Should we just stick with Brown Shirts – or wear the armbands, too?”
Despite the backing of big names, however, some Republicans have soured on the group. Some complained that it would dilute from the GOP message by adding another group to the party’s infrastructure. Others griped that it was just a vehicle for 2012 hopefuls – and Cantor. And conservatives were upset that the group ignored social issues, like abortion and gay rights, during its first event, focusing instead on economic issues.
The whole disaster was designed to lead to Eric Cantor being “discovered”. We already know about pizza.