‘We can fix it’: Boehner says change agenda be­longs to Repub­li­cans

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By S.A. Miller and Stephen Di­nan

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.”

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