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With Democrat Hillary Clinton announcing her presidential candidacy and Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio jumping into the race Monday, the thorny issue of wage inequality promises to be a major theme in the 2016 election.
On CNBC Monday, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he was troubled by a hint of "class warfare" in Clinton's video announcement, in which she said, "The deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top."
"Are we now going to have a replay of the last six years" under President Barack Obama? Cantor asked.
But sitting next to Cantor on "Squawk Box, " former Obama chief of staff Bill Daley argued that Democrats and Republicans are all "running not to the 2 percent, but the 98 percent."
"Everyone is trying to help the middle class and get rid of wage inequality," said Daley, who also served as commerce secretary in the administration of Bill Clinton. "The thing Bill Clinton understood—and I think Hillary Clinton understands—we better get this economy growing to lift more boats, not just the people at the very top."
Hillary Clinton hit the road, after officially launching her 2016 campaign this weekend. She left Chappaqua, New York, in a van headed for Iowa, site of the nation's first caucuses.
With the tepid economic recovery since the 2008 financial crisis, Clinton cannot run on a "third term" of Obama, warned Daley, current head of U.S. operations at Swiss hedge fund Argentiere Capital. He also stressed the need for Clinton to carve out her own message for jump-starting growth.
The former first lady and secretary of state does not appear to have a strong primary competitor, he said.
"Right now, there are only a couple people speculated. Martin O'Malley [former Maryland governor] who hasn't announced. There's Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia. And the never-ending cry by some people for Elizabeth Warren … who keeps saying, 'No, no, no,'" Daley said. "But some people won't take 'no' for an answer" from the Massachusetts senator.
While the Democratic primaries may be a foregone conclusion, the Republican nominating process promises to be a highly contested race on what the party should stand for.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and a conservative voice, was formally launching his GOP campaign for president on Monday.
"Rubio certainly reflects the strength our party has in the next generation," said Cantor, who left Congress after losing his GOP primary race to a tea party candidate in June 2014. He's currently vice chairman and managing director at boutique investment banking firm Moelis & Co.
Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas are already officially in the race. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—both expected to be strong candidates—have yet to announce.
"If you look across the board, our bench is very populated," Cantor said. "We're going to have a robust discussion on ideas in our party. I think it's healthy for Republicans."