House Speaker John Boehner is facing three Republican primary opponents – all relative unknowns – in his upcoming May 6 U.S. House primary election, but he’s taking no chances with his campaign.
The Speaker recently hit the airwaves with a positive television spot, quite a surprising development for a nationally prominent elected official who has hardly faced a serious opponent during his 12 U.S. House re-election campaigns.
It’s unlikely that the Speaker will lose his renomination fight. The fact that he has three opponents in an electoral system with no run-off means it will be very difficult to coalesce the anti-Boehner Republican vote around one candidate.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses while meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. On Wednesday, the Republican-run House passed an immense $1.1 trillion spending package, a bipartisan compromise that all but banishes the likelihood of an election-year government shutdown. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
But, should the Speaker not win an overwhelming victory, such result could create national implications and his presence and strength inside the Republican conference might be diminished.
Tim Alberta, reporting for the National Journal on April 10, wrote:
Several dozen frustrated House conservatives are scheming to infiltrate the GOP leadership next year—possibly by forcing Speaker John Boehner to step aside immediately after November's midterm elections.
Alberta writes that conservative House Republicans may be aiming at not only the speaker, but his lieutenants as well. That would include House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Some conservatives are reported as willing to accept a Cantor speakership in exchange for conservatives gaining other key leadership roles.
But Seth McLaughlin, reporting on April 9 for the Washington Times, quotes longtime California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who thinks Boehner could win another term as speaker, while Cantor might not survive.
“I think that Boehner can survive the discontent that the tea party and the more conservative element of the Republican Party has, but I don’t think that is true of Cantor,” Mr. Rohrabacher told The Washington Times. “Boehner is not considered someone who is an active adversary. Cantor can be seen — on immigration and a lot of other things — as someone who is very resentful of what would be the patriot Republican right.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, right, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, walk to a second Republican conference meeting to discuss the "fiscal cliff" bill passed by the Senate Monday night_and now awaits a vote in the GOP-controlled House_ at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Credit: AP
Facing a concerted effort by House Republicans to oust him, the speaker may see maintaining a high primary renomination result as insurance. Boehner’s victory percentage receding would only lend ammunition to House conservatives, who could argue that the speaker can’t even retain support back home.
Compounding the speaker’s challenges are recent announcements by key loyalists that they’re retiring from the House. Per Michael C. Bender and Derek Wallbank at Bloomberg:
Raising taxes for top earners was anathema to Representative Dave Camp. Still, there he was on New Year’s Day 2013 backing a plan to do just that -- averting a U.S. fiscal crisis -- to help John Boehner.
Camp’s announcement this week that he won’t seek re-election means one less loyal lieutenant for Boehner. The Ways and Means Committee chairman is the latest supporter of the House speaker to call it quits.
Along with Camp, Michigan’s Mike Rogers and Iowa’s Tom Latham – both important Boehner allies – are heading for the exits.
Boehner’s campaign televison ad's message is even more surprising – for what it doesn't say, rather than what it does. The speaker doesn't appear in the commercial, only his voice reciting the required disclaimer at its beginning. Instead, specific people from around his district provide a series of testimonials, making laudatory comments about Boehner representing them in Congress. What isn't included is anyone mentioning that their congressman is the Speaker of the House.
As of this writing, no public polls have been released in the race, and the field consisting of teacher J.D. Winteregg, computer consultant Eric Gurr, and Tea Party activist Matthew Ashworth appears less than imposing on paper, but it is apparent something is brewing in this southwestern Ohio congressional district.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio wraps up a news conference on his legislative agenda, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner touched on the Ukraine crisis, relations with Russia, the NSA surveillance program, jobs and other issues. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Winteregg, who is a credible candidate, and Gurr are making an effort against the Speaker and it is clear that the latter's internal polling data is likely showing a weak job approval number within his Republican constituency.
With congressional ratings registering all-time lows and his counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, experiencing seriously upside down ratings, it is more than likely that Boehner is painted with that same brush. The fact that he would begin active campaigning for his party's nomination, something rarely done since his original election, and that Boehner’s ad never references that he is the speaker, preferring just to be characterized as the local congressman, tells us that his current data is less than sufficient.
The 8th District of Ohio sits just north of Cincinnati, beginning at the Hamilton County border and containing the populous counties of Butler, Clark, and Miami. It also includes Darke and Preble counties, along with part of Mercer. Springfield, Hamilton, Fairfield, and Middletown are the district's largest communities. The seat is the most heavily Republican in Ohio, with the GOP presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 getting 60 and 62 percent, respectively.
Boehner’s chances of winning a third term as speaker hinge on various factors. Will Republicans gain seats in the midterms, and if so, who will be those new members? What messages and mandates will voters give incumbent conservatives and new congressmen about Boehner’s leadership? And, can conservatives find one among their own who is willing to challenge the Speaker in post-election leadership contests?
Another term for John Boehner as speaker isn’t a given, but it’s certainly possible. In an election year sure to have its share of surprises, it’s hard to predict what will break for or against the speaker. Time – and the people’s votes – will tell.
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