Can Eric Cantor "rebrand"?

If Eric Cantor’s newfound interest in pediatric cancer lasts for more than, say, two years—and if he’s willing to back it up with money—then the cynics will owe him an apology. Rebranding itself is widely tolerated, but the word “rebranding” is still something a politician would not choose to have attached to his name on the front page of the paper. Bad for the brand…

As The Washington Post would have it, Cantor isn’t exposing himself as a phony when he suddenly starts talking like the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Not at all: he’s “rebranding.” You might think that Cantor’s sudden passion for John Lewis, the saint-like Democratic congressman and civil-rights hero, would stir just a bit of skepticism, and adding pediatric cancer to the mix would push Cantor beyond the range of rebranding and into territory better known as “faking,” or even “lying.” But no. “Rebranding” it is.

Cantor isn’t the only Republican bullyboy who is rebranding. Jonathan Chait, the politics blogger for New York magazine, reported recently that Paul Ryan is rebranding, too. Ryan is chairman of the House Budget Committee (and was the Republican vice-presidential candidate on the Mitt Romney ticket in 2012). According to Chait, “Paul Ryan’s flamboyantly low-key campaign to rebrand himself from an Ayn Rand miser to Jack Kemp-esque lover of the poor” will not work, because the budget numbers don’t add up. Ah, yes. The obstacle Ryan has encountered sometimes goes by the name “reality.” Reality is the enemy of branding and rebranding because it limits their reach. But not by much.