When Sen. John Thune took the podium at the 2004 Republican convention, the South Dakotan, who was out of politics and running against powerful Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, was limited to a 10-sentence minispeech.
Four years later, these young, charismatic lawmakers - both of whom had been mentioned as possible running mates for Republican nominee Sen. John McCain - are among a new crop of party up-and-comers expected to play prominent party roles in the future, starting with the national convention, which starts Monday in St. Paul.
“Our ranks are ripe with rising stars,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant. “Anyone looking at the Republican Party’s long-term prospects should be encouraged that we have so many young leaders who have already accomplished more” than Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
Mr. Cantor, 45, has risen steadily through the party’s ranks since he was first elected to Congress in 2000. He has aggressively attacked Democratic leaders and has been a staunch defender of the Bush administration, and his loyalty and ambition were rewarded in 2002 when he was chosen as House Republican chief deputy whip.
The Virginian, the only Jewish Republican in the House, has used his leadership position to increase his profile on Capitol Hill since his party lost control of the chamber to Democrats in January 2007. He is a frequent guest on television news shows and is considered a front-runner to replace Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio one day as House party leader.
“Eric Cantor´s leadership skills have rightfully earned him an immense amount of respect not only from Republicans on Capitol Hill, but also from the political pundit class, who see him as a potential Senate, gubernatorial or even vice-presidential candidate,” said Ken Spain, spokesman with the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Mr. Thune, 47, became an instant hero among conservatives in November 2004 when he knocked off Mr. Daschle.
With his rangy stature, good looks and friendly, articulate demeanor, Mr. Thune is viewed as a natural choice for future party leadership positions.
“For his first couple of years, he was the ‘knight in shining armor’ who took down Daschle, but I think he’s starting to rise above that, absolutely,” said Rebecca Fisher, spokeswoman with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
He also is a member of the Senate’s Gang of 10, a coalition of five Republicans and five Democrats who recently drafted a sweeping energy compromise designed to lower the cost of gasoline, a plan that includes expanding offshore drilling and increasing development of renewable fuel sources.
“People do look up to him,” Mrs. Fisher said. “He is a figure who has risen certainly to be a national figure, and we’re very happy to have him on our side.”
Another young Republican with sky-is-the-limit political potential is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. After serving less than two terms in the House, he was elected governor in 2007, becoming the first nonwhite to hold the office since Reconstruction and the first elected Indian-American governor in U.S. history.
He was first elected to the House in 2004 at age 33 and immediately was elected class president, highlighting the scope of his political aspirations as well as his influence among his colleagues.View Entire Story
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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