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“I’m not one to say I’m the right guy, but I would hope, my case for this position is, I very much believe our party is one of limited government, lower taxes, belief in free markets, belief in a strong national defense posture with a cautious approach to making sure that happens.

“I also believe, though, that the country is not only poised, it is desperate for us to use those principles to fashion solutions to everyday challenges, and I believe that this country will accept that because we’re not a country that is all about big-government solutions, and I think that’s where the other side goes.”

Some House Republicans had looked to Mr. Cantor to challenge Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, the party’s leader since 2006. But for someone who spent the past six years as chief deputy whip, the whip’s post is a logical fit.

There were times over the past two years of Democratic control when Mr. Cantor was ready to fight, and Mr. Boehner decided appeasement was a better path.

Mr. Cantor nods slightly when asked whether he’ll stand up to the House Republicans’ leader, should the need arise in the next Congress. Mr. Cantor said the losses in the past two elections have stripped away pressure to go along simply to get along.

Mr. Cantor is the only Jewish Republican in the House. That has given him a high profile on Middle East issues, and has made him a key fundraiser for Republicans.

He was a surrogate for Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign this year, and was even reported to have been considered for the vice-presidential nomination. Virginia Republicans used to joke that the congressman was not the most famous Cantor. That honor went to his wife, Diana, who as the former executive director of the Virginia College Savings Plan, used to be a ubiquitous presence on commercials advertising the program.

Mr. Cantor’s Republican leanings started early - something of an oddity for a Jewish family in Richmond.

His parents got involved in Republican causes through their friendship with the Obenshain family, a mainstay of Virginia politics. That meant as a boy Mr. Cantor manned precincts, put up yard signs, and, he admitted, occasionally took down a Democrat’s signs.

John S. Reid, a former member of Virginia’s House of Delegates and one of Mr. Cantor’s mentors, said he remembers political bull sessions at the congressman’s parents’ house in the 1970s, and he said even then, as a high school student, Mr. Cantor would sit in.

Mr. Cantor made his first run for office in 1991, winning a race where the primary was the key challenge. He topped two candidates much older than him in a convention at a high school gym.

Nine years later, he won a brutal primary for the House seat being vacated by 20-year veteran Rep. Thomas J. Bliley Jr. in a matchup that pitted Mr. Cantor, seen as the business candidate from north of the James River, against state Sen. Steve Martin, seen as the social-issues candidate from south of the river.

Thanks to his experience bridging that gap in the years since, Mr. Cantor could be the right man to help bridge what some Republicans say is a coming national rift between those two factions of their party.

Mr. Reid, who once held the whip’s position for Republicans in the House of Delegates, said Mr. Cantor will bring a needed balance to the position at the congressional level.

“He’s smart. He’s a well-educated young man. But besides that, his temperament is exemplary. He knows how to get along with people. He can walk into a room with a group of people who don’t agree and find common ground,” he said.

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