From The Hill:
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is backing off his bold prediction that Republicans will gain seats this November.
A confident Boehner told reporters in April that once voters heard the Republican message, the GOP would put on a strong showing in the fall.
“I think we are going to gain seats this year. Period,” he said at the time.
Six weeks and three special-election losses later, a spokesman for Boehner attempted to tamp down expectations.
“This is going to be a better year for Republicans than people think,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said on Monday. “We hope to pick up seats — that’s the goal.”
Boehner’s April 3 statement at a Christian Science Monitor-sponsored breakfast raised many eyebrows in GOP circles because House Republicans are defending many open seats and are lagging behind Democrats in campaign cash
Boehner’s prediction in April was one of the only times the Republican leader has gone out on a limb during a tenure that has been marked by seemingly safe, non-controversial decisions, according to critics of the GOP leader.
“Boehner’s leadership has been lacking,” a GOP lobbyist and strategist said.
Boehner last year reportedly called for staffing changes at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), but none happened after NRCC Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) refused to make them.
After the party’s devastating loss last week in a Mississippi special election, Boehner did not directly answer the question about whether Cole would stay on at the NRCC. With some of his GOP colleagues calling for quick and decisive action, Boehner lauded a 20-page strategic memo crafted by Rep. Tom Davis (Va.), a former NRCC chairman.
It wasn’t until five days after the Mississippi loss that Boehner provided clarity on whether Cole would be ousted.
“He’s staying,” Boehner said on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Sunday. “And we know the kind of changes that need to be made in order to help our members and help our candidates go out there and do their best in a very difficult environment.”
Some GOP strategists and lobbyists have privately questioned Boehner’s leadership, claiming he has opted repeatedly not to ruffle feathers. Those moves have ultimately undercut his authority and hampered the House GOP, they say.
Since becoming the top Republican in the House, Boehner has rarely broken with President Bush, whose approval ratings have consistently been in the 30s over the last couple of years.
Not surprisingly, House Republicans have recently distanced themselves from Bush on the farm and housing bills. Boehner, consistent with the White House, voted against both high-profile measures.
Like many of his GOP colleagues, Boehner has repeatedly stood by Bush on the Iraq war.
Having been elected minority leader in early 2007, Boehner was generally not blamed for the Democrats’ huge gains in 2006. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) did challenge him for the top House GOP slot after the 2006 elections, but Boehner won easily.
If Democrats pick up a slew of seats this fall, however, Boehner will shoulder much of the blame and may not survive another leadership challenge.