Cantor is playing nicely with Boehner. Here’s why

Updated

It’s no secret on Capitol Hill that there has been tension between House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and his deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Things reportedly got so heated  between their staffs last year that colleagues had to step in and call a truce.

Now a new dynamic is at play as Cantor may have realized that being a loyal team player in 2012 could pay off down the line. “Cantor hearts Boehner, and vice versa,” was the headline on a recent Politico story.

“The reports of problems were generally exaggerated in the past, and it’s now entirely a dead issue,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told the show in an email. “They–and our staffs–are working together closely and continuously.”

On Tuesday’s show, Alex asked NBC Capitol Hill correspondent Luke Russert why Cantor has been M.I.A. during the “fiscal cliff”  negotiations, and what it meant in terms of his relationship with the Speaker. The reasons are largely tactical, Russert explained. Cantor has corrected course since the summer of 2011 when his naked political ambition left a “really negative impression of him in a lot of folks’ opinions.”

“He is now very much a team player,” Russert said, noting that the No. 2 Republican has largely stayed out of all discussions over the “fiscal cliff,” and has given Boehner carte blanche to negotiate a deal with President Obama.

“Certainly he’ll be briefed, certainly he’ll make his opinions known, but he’s not going to try and tell John Boehner that you cannot get this through the conference,” Russert added.

The reason for the change is not policy convergence–Cantor is generally seen as much more hostile than the Speaker to any deal that raises tax rates. Instead, it has to do with pure politics.

“From folks I’ve spoken to, Eric Cantor’s thinking is much like this: If the GOP wins again in 2014, Boehner will most likely walk away in 2016,” Russert said. “If Cantor can be a dutiful lieutenant till then, he could in 2016 achieve his dream of becoming the first Jewish Speaker of the House.”

Explore:

Cantor is playing nicely with Boehner. Here's why

Updated