Eric Cantor refuses to say that Sarah Palin is qualified to be president.

On Fox News last night, House Minority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) fielded questions about Sarah Palin from host Geraldo Rivera. In a near-repeat of a similar exchange on MSNBC last month, when Haley Barbour refused to say that Palin is qualified to be president, Cantor refused to tout the qualifications of Palin. Rivera then quipped that both Cantor and Barbour seem to be “scared” of Palin’s rise:

RIVERA: Haley Barbour question: yes or no, is she qualified to be president?

CANTOR: Haley Barbour, he is an expert. That guy is one of the smartest people I know and he’s a real leader. […]

RIVERA: And he didn’t answer the question, and neither did you. Alright Congressman Eric Cantor, thank you very much. Like I said to my friend Mike Huckabee last night, I think Sarah Palin scares mainstream Republicans like Eric Cantor and Haley Barbour as much as she scares the Democrats.

Watch it:

Cantor is straddling a new fifth wheel in Republican politics. While he’s uncomfortable endorsing the notion that Palin is even capable of holding the Oval Office, he knows that she is critical in bringing in support from the tea party base. Already, Cantor’s awkward response has generated outrage from pro-Palin websites, like Free Republic.