Boehner Looks Ahead Through Rose-Colored Glasses
At a luncheon with reporters today organized by the Christian Science Monitor, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) declined to echo the electoral pessimism voiced of late by many of his GOP colleagues. "I think this is going to be a far better Republican year than most people in this town are talking about," he said, later vowing, "I think we will gain seats this year. Period."
Is Boehner looking at the world through rose-colored glasses? In a way, yes, as the Ohioan made clear in a lengthy anecdote about his meeting last week with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Boehner took an official trip across North Africa with a handful of colleagues last week and the itinerary included a visit with the infamous Libyan colonel. Recounting a surreal-sounding journey, Boehner said he met with Gaddafi in a white tent in the middle of the desert, miles from civilization and far from Tripoli, where the meeting was supposed to take place (the lawmakers' plane was diverted to a new location just minutes before it was supposed to land in the Libyan capital).
Engaging briefly in diplo-speak, Boehner said the two men had a "very frank discussion." At one point, Gaddafi -- wearing shades throughout the meeting, as he is known to do -- pulled out a case with another pair of sunglasses and handed them to Boehner. Leaning in close to the Minority Leader, Gaddafi said: "Desert not kind to blue eyes."
Boehner obliged and put the shades on, and Gaddafi told him to keep them at the end of the meeting. "So now I have this pair of glasses from Col. Gaddafi," Boehner said.
But the bulk of Boehner's thoughts today were not about his Libyan adventure, and the Ohioan generally exuded confidence about the GOP's current electoral standing, particularly in the presidential race.
Boehner said the marathon Democratic primary battle would certainly aid Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in November, as "the longer this fight goes on, the more disappointed one side or the other is going to be." Pointing out that Democrats currently control 61 House districts won by President Bush in 2004, Boehner predicted "John McCain will win more than 61 Democrat-held seats."
Boehner did acknowledge that his party has not helped its cause so far on the fundraising front. "Some of you heard me say: On the resource side, we suck. You can put all the lipstick on a pig you want," he said.
Boehner did predict that the GOP's cash balance would improve as members stepped up to help the party. Asked for an example of a Republican lawmaker who has already done so, Boehner said, "Ron Paul wrote a check! Ron Paul! First time ever!"
The former Texas presidential candidate has apparently donated a sizable sum to the National Republican Congressional Committee, but the NRCC needs all the help it can get to defend the open seats of more than two-dozen retiring GOP lawmakers. Boehner argued that those retirements wouldn't change the shape of the playing field much, and even said, "There are some retirements that are probably good."
Boehner also said he believed Republicans were unifying behind McCain's campaign, that he didn't think McCain would pick a member of Congress as his running mate and that he did not believe high Democratic turnout in the primaries would have much of an impact on the general election. No, Boehner did not wear his new, Gaddafi-gifted sunglasses during the luncheon. It only seemed that way.
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