‘We can fix it’: Boehner says change agenda belongs to Republicans
The top House Republican on May 13 said that despite widespread voter dissatisfaction, his party does not need to change its core principles but instead will pin its hopes on a “refurbished” message and the appeal of a maverick presidential candidate.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, who on May 12 presented his new election agenda to fellow House Republicans, said what is ailing the Republican Party is largely beyond its control but that the party’s basic mes- sage can still be a winner if it’s properly conveyed to voters.
“It’s not that the party’s going to change, it’s what we talk about and how we talk about it,” he said. “You look at the Republican brand name being where it is, let’s be frank about it. Iraq has been very unpopular, right? It’s associated with Republicans. The president’s job approval is somewhere down around 30. Those are the two big issues that hurt the brand.
“It’s a change election and people have a lot of anxieties about the economy, gas prices, national security, health care costs, access to health care,” Mr. Boehner told The Washington Times in an interview at his Capitol office. “Most Americans look up and think that Washington is broken. We’ve got to show them that we can fix it.”
But in an effort to settle on an ef- fective slogan to capture the mantra of change, Republicans came up with offering voters “the change they deserve” — nearly identical to the slogan pharmaceutical giant Wyeth used to market the anti-depressant Effexor.
Mr. Boehner said he was not aware until May 13 that the phrase was already coined.
Democrats say Republicans won’t be able to escape the record they compiled with President Bush, which Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, described last week as “$3 trillion in new debt, millions more Americans without health insurance, energy and gas prices skyrocketing and incomes stagnant.”
But Republicans plan to argue that they are in tune with the changes voters want to see in Washington, and will argue that Democrats in Congress have failed to deliver on their promised changes.
They blame Democrats for allowing gasoline prices to soar, blocking trade deals that could spur the economy and hamstringing national security by sidelining an update of government eavesdropping laws under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Democrats have had a pretty good run in special elections, taking several districts from Republicans recently, leaving Mr. Boehner and other Republican House leaders to defend their performance.
Mr. Boehner blamed House Republicans’ campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, for not ensuring better candidates survived to face off against strong Democrats.
“The NRCC took the position we’re not going to get involved in primaries. It seems clear now that may not have been the smartest move,” he said, adding he understands the pressures, financial and otherwise, the NRCC is under.
Still, the Ohio Republican said the special elections don’t say anything about the ones in November, when the entire House is up for grabs. “I don’t see these specials as any harbinger of what happens in November,” he said.
Mr. Boehner added that the party must stand with presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
“He’s our nominee and he has his own Republican brand — frankly it’s better than the Republican brand,” he said. “We are going to wrap our arms around him as tightly as we can.”