House Speaker John Boehner reportedly has spent nearly $300,000 on campaign ads in the Cincinnati and Dayton markets, evidence that his road to re-election isn't as smooth as it could be.
House Speaker John Boehner doesn’t look to be in serious jeopardy of losing his congressional seat or his speaker’s gavel in 2014, but nationalized tea party groups are making things uncomfortable for the 12-term incumbent and forcing him to campaign harder than he has in many years.
This election cycle, political action committee the Tea Party Leadership Fund has sent invitations to a “Surprise Retirement Party” for Boehner, R-Ohio, to reporters and constituents, and has spent $320,000 supporting one of Boehner’s three primary challengers: J.D. Winteregg, a French teacher.
The group appears to be harnessing the national frustration with Boehner that has been bubbling up for years, as the speaker has brought legislation to the floor that's passed with more Democratic votes than Republican ones. As a response to Boehner pushing to increase the debt ceiling earlier this year, the Senate Conservatives Fund launched replacethespeaker.com, an online site where more than 38,000 people have signed a petition to oust Boehner and a forum for tracking House Republicans who have called on Boehner to resign from his position as the GOP’s point man.
To counter the insurgency, Boehner has been forced to run a television advertising campaign touting his ties to his district after a four-year hiatus from the airwaves. According to The Washington Post's tally, the speaker’s spent nearly $300,000 on campaign ads in the Cincinnati and Dayton markets that will run at least until late April. The small cost of the ad buy is a drop in the bucket for Boehner, who has more than $3.3 million cash on hand in his personal campaign war chest. Yet it's still evidence of his having to work harder than he has in some time to keep his seat, ahead of competing in a May 6 primary.
Back home, however, Boehner’s constituents are not so sure the nationalized anti-establishment groups know what's best for them, nor are they sure that groups like the Tea Party Leadership Fund have their best interests at heart.
“They are just carpetbagging,” says Susan McLaughlin, a board member of the Liberty Township Tea Party. “They need to go home and take care of their districts and their counties. We are smart enough here. We don’t need them.”
McLaughlin defends Boehner, whom she affectionately refers to as “John.” She says there is certainly an undercurrent of folks in the district who wish Boehner would be more “fiery and flamboyant,” but that sort of leader “has never been him.”
“I just have never seen this kind of opposition to John, and a lot of it is coming from out of the district,” McLaughlin says.
Kevin McDonald, a GOP activist in Boehner's district, calls all the outside campaigning against Boehner “a little dumb.” He argues that not everyone is “thrilled” with Boehner, but many still understand that he's not just their lawmaker, he's the speaker of the House.
“You cannot please everybody, but he still has a good groundswell of support,” McDonald says.
Carl Rullmann of the West Chester Tea Party is more on the fence. With just a few weeks until the Republican primary, he still has not made up his mind on which candidate will get his vote.
“I don’t think John is a ‘RINO’ [Republican In Name Only], but he has given in on a few things that we wish he had not,” Rullmann says. “I cannot think of a single thing he has done wrong, but I look at results and he has not been able to stop the liberal socialist juggernaut.”
A stronger undercurrent of similar dissatisfaction eventually could fester and threaten Boehner's position in the future.
“He has made several promises that I don’t feel he has kept. Nothing about him says he is one of us anymore. We cannot even get him to come to a town hall meeting,” says Richard Inman, who represents the Fairfield Tea Party.
Inman says his frustration with Boehner isn’t personal, it’s just about his job performance.
“As a person, I like him. I have voted for him. I have campaigned for him,” Inman says. “The loyalty doesn’t apply when [lawmakers] are doing a bad job.”