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Cantor compares Obama to Putin

WASHINGTON - The No. 2 Republican in the House on Thursdaycompared President Barack Obama's plans for the auto industry tothe policies of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, saying theWhite House has stripped credit holders of rights and given them toDemocratic allies.

"They said, 'Set aside the rule of law, let's strip securedcreditors, bondholders, of their rights. Take them away outside ofthe bankruptcy process and give them to the political cronies andthe auto workers' unions," Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in aninterview with The Associated Press.

"It's almost like looking at Putin's Russia," added Cantor,the GOP's House whip. "You want to reward your political friendsat the expense of the certainty of law?"

The Obama administration this week set bonus limits on companiesthat have received billions of dollars in federal bailout money andappointed a "special master" with power to reject pay plans hedeems excessive.

Conservatives eagerly compare such government "meddling" andObama's governing style to leaders half a world away.

"Like Obama, Putin has a fawning media that is intimidated byan uncertain marketplace and looking for any help to stay afloat,"John Feehery, a conservative consultant and veteran HouseRepublican spokesman, wrote Wednesday on his blog.

In a wide-ranging interview, Cantor said that Obama's economicrescue plans and Democrats' sweeping overhaul of the health caresystem will sour with recession-weary voters before the 2010midterm elections. He predicted Republicans will retake control ofthe House.

While acknowledging that Democrats may well have the votes topush Obama's health plan through Congress with few or no Republicanvotes, "it will be at a huge political cost," Cantor said.

"The Democratic agenda is unraveling," he said, elucidatingwhat's become the Republicans' main talking point in recent weeks."My sense is by November of 2010, (there will be) an electoratethat really wants to see a check and a balance on unfetteredpower."

Democrats enjoy a 256-178 majority in the House, with onevacancy. Republicans would have to have a net gain of 40 seats inNovember 2010 to reclaim a majority. Cantor said they would beginby looking at the 49 districts that voted for Republican JohnMcCain for president last year but are represented by Democrats.

Republicans are in a titanic struggle over who speaks for theGOP and what the party stands for, conservative principles alone ora "big tent" approach that can accommodate centrist members inthe name of growth. Focusing on conservative principles cost theGOP a Senate seat when Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched fromthe GOP to the Democratic Party, putting Obama's party in reach ofa crucial 60-seat Senate majority.

The most visible Republicans at present have been deeplyunpopular outside the GOP's conservative base: former VicePresident Dick Cheney, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh andformer House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"The issue for us is rebuilding a governing majority that iscomfortable with differences that can transcend the divisivenessand unify behind the principles that we know our party hassucceeded on," namely limited government and individual rights,Cantor said.

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