Trump effective, but too outrageous: Eric Cantor

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Donald Trump has been effective in empathizing with the plight of struggling Americans, but the brash way he's going about it won't have staying power in the race for the White House, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told CNBC on Friday.

"I think Donald Trump ... [has] been effective at standing up and saying, 'Hey, I get what people are going through.' He can say some outrageous things. I think some of the language that was used vis-a-vis the [Mexican] immigrants ... [were] very divisive, very ugly and not a sustainable kind of rhetoric," said Cantor, who served seven terms as a Republican congressman from Virginia.

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"What we will see over time is real leadership step up—people and candidates who are willing to say, 'Hey, here is how we're going to solve the problem'" of getting the economy back on track, he predicted—pointing to next week's Fox News Republican debate as the first major national opportunity for candidates to differentiate their ideas.

Appearing on "Squawk Box," Cantor said he sees two tiers emerging among the 17 Republican candidates vying for the nomination. "You're going to see the top five, ... Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and others, talk maybe about their solutions, begin to lay out their policy platforms."

"I think you'll have those at sort of the bottom tier say at least, 'Hey, I'm here. Notice me,'" he continued, "which again adds that entertainment value to politics that we've seen so much of lately."

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The most compelling argument for Republicans in the 2016 campaign is the lack of strong economic growth during President Barack Obama's time in the White House, said Cantor.

"The growth that has been historic in this country, over 3 percent, ... it's just not happened. No one can deny that fact. So let's try something different," he said. "You can't be satisfied with what's been going on for the past seven years."

"I think a Republican will win this election," he added. "[But] clearly there will be a messy primary, 17 entrants and there could be more to come."

Cantor, vice chairman and managing director at investment bank Moelis and Co., lost his 2014 GOP primary race to David Brat, a tea party-affiliated economics professor. Brat ended up winning in the midterm election, which saw Republicans widen their House majority and win control of the Senate.