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Cantor carves out role at convention

TAMPA, Fla. — Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is not speaking at the 2012 Republican convention, but the House majority leader has been plenty busy this week in the Sunshine State.

Cantor has met with swing-state delegations, appeared on various media outlets and made a bold Election Day prediction.

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Some GOP lawmakers have privately indicated they are confused that Cantor, the first member of GOP leadership to endorse Mitt Romney’s presidential bid during the primary, doesn’t have a prime-time speaking role.

Four years ago, Cantor was slated to speak at the convention before the Republican National Committee opted to cut a day from the four-day event because of Hurricane Gustav.

Cantor, the only Jewish Republican serving in Congress, showed no sign that he is upset about not speaking this time around.

The six-term lawmaker said that freshman Republicans and GOP candidates should have time to speak to a national audience from the convention stage: “Our bench is deep … if they can get some national exposure by speaking, that is terrific.”

While Democrats say they have a good shot at winning back control of the House, Cantor said on Wednesday the GOP is in good shape to expand its majority.

“I believe we're going to be strengthening our majority and, frankly, expanding it,” Cantor told The Hill following a breakfast meeting at the Embassy Suites where he spoke to the Michigan delegates.

He predicted that Republicans could net as many as 10 seats in November. Democrats need to capture 25 seats to reclaim the majority.

Unlike the prepared statements he has given to reporters at press conferences on Capitol Hill, Cantor spoke to about 70 Michigan delegates without a speech in hand.

Hopping onto a temporary riser set up at the front of a medium-sized conference room, Cantor said, “God, I love the Michigan delegation.”

He joked that his family has invested more time and money in Michigan, noting that his daughter is a junior at the University of Michigan. (Cantor arrived in Tampa on Tuesday because he was dropping her off earlier in the week.)

"I know that probably endears me to about half the room and leaves the other half a little ‘green,’ ” he said, referring to Michigan’s rival, Michigan State.

The crux of Cantor’s speech centered on the importance of swing states and close contests, including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s home state of Michigan.

“We've got a job to do as swing-state compatriots here, because it's going to come down to us. It's going to come down to Virginia. It's going to come down to Michigan and Wisconsin and Iowa and Colorado, and we know it's going to come down to about 6 percent in all our states. Our task is to get revved up here, to go out and begin to make the case for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan,” Cantor said.

Cantor summed up the challenge that faces the Michigan delegates as they return to their home state following the GOP convention.

"Each and every day when we leave here, in all counties of your great state, you've got to fan out and you've got to find the voters, sign them up, talk to them about the import of this election, tell them about how it's important for your kids … and we will all be celebrating victory this November.”

The No. 2-ranked House Republican was slated to speak to several other state delegations on Wednesday and Thursday, according to aides.