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John Boehner Needn't Worry About Eric Cantor -- Yet

By Albert R. Hunt
January 29, 2013 6:30 PM EST

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will deliver what's being billed as a major address on the Republican agenda next week. House Speaker John Boehner doesn't have to hire a food taster just yet.

Republican insiders say Cantor's speech is expected to be long on symbols and short on specifics. It is designed to position him more as the speaker's successor than as an immediate challenger. Periodic tension persists between the two Republican leaders and their staffs.

Other party politicians say the Virginia Republican realizes he needs to broaden his image as he looks over his shoulder at House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Both are would-be candidates for Boehner's job.

The speech, at the American Enterprise Institute on Feb. 5, is about "how to make life work better," not exactly a cutting-edge issue. Familiar calls for lower taxes and less regulation have pride of place.

One important political indicator to watch: What, if anything, will he say about immigration? Most Republican leaders desperately want to get a comprehensive immigration bill passed to address the party's troubles with the growing Hispanic vote. In Cantor's home state, Hispanics comprised 5 percent of the electorate in November and went 2-to-1 for President Barack Obama. Nonetheless, Cantor needs to be careful: The party's conservative base in the House, to which the majority leader always is attuned, is generally anti-immigration.

(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)

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