In veep search, Cantor gets close look

August 2, 2008 6:38:39 PM PDT
John McCain's campaign has asked Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor for personal documents as the Republican presidential candidate steps up his search for a running mate, The Associated Press has learned. Cantor, 45, the chief deputy minority whip in the House, has been mentioned among several Republicans as a possible running mate for McCain. A Republican familiar with the conversations between Cantor and the McCain campaign said Cantor has been asked to turn over documents, but did not know specifically what records were sought.

The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because neither the McCain campaign nor Cantor's office wishes to discuss the running mate selection process.

Cantor is Jewish and is among Israel's most avid congressional supporters. His addition to the ticket could help the Republicans win over Jewish votes this year in key battleground states such as Florida. If McCain wins, Cantor would become the first Jewish vice president.

Cantor also would provide youth to the ticket as McCain turns 72 later this month.

Cantor through a spokesman declined to comment. McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said the campaign would have "no comment on anything related to the vice presidential issue."

With just weeks till the national conventions, McCain and Democratic Sen. Barack Obama have knuckled down in their search for vice presidential candidates. They have been regularls of Pennsylvania, picking off a state in the solidly Republican South could tip a close race to the Democrats.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is personally close and ideologically in sync with Obama and has been mentioned as a possible running mate along with Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana and Joe Biden of Delaware and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Among others believed to be getting close looks from McCain: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman for McCain.

Cantor's drawback is his obscurity despite his leadership position in the House.

He won his seat in Congress in 2000 from one of Virginia's most conservative House districts. No Democratic challenger has come close to defeating him since, including actor Ben Jones, who played the Cooter character on the "Dukes of Hazzard" television comedy series. He faces a longshot challenge this year from Anita Hartke, the daughter of former Democratic Sen. Vance Hartke of Indiana.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman became the first Jewish candidate on a major U.S. party presidential ticket in 2000 when Democrat Al Gore chose him as his vice presidential running mate. Lieberman, now an independent, has endorsed McCain this year.