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5. Rep. Eric Cantor 

U.S. House Majority Leader

click to enlarge ASH DANIEL

A few weeks back, Cantor made a choice that may define his career. Taking a stand on tax increases, he walked out of the debt-ceiling negotiations headed by Vice President Joe Biden (even after Biden called him “smart as hell”). Was Cantor’s escape shrewd or shortsighted? One thing is certain: The House majority leader and self-described “young gun” wields tremendous influence in his hometown and beyond, and his visibility is likely to increase when the presidential race heats up. So what if he supports big pork-barrel projects, such as high-speed rail and unnecessary fighter jet engines, which conflict with his party’s ideology? He’s ours. And he has big-money donors at Altria, Dominion and McGuireWoods eating out of his pocket.

2010 Ranking: 4

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