Power Play wonders how the White House feels now about picking John Boehner as one of its villains du jour during the campaign - or, as President Obama once tauntingly called him, "the Republican who thinks he's going to take over as speaker of the House."
Certainly the Obama attacks solidified Boehner's position atop the other striving members of the Republican House caucus, and that may have spared Boehner the trouble of a leadership fight. As one aide to another Republican leader told Power Play: "If you're not with Boehner, you're with Obama."
Democrats say they're very happy with the Obama-versus-Boehner dynamic, and point to the reams of reporting -- past, present and future on Boehner's country club look and lobbyist connections. NPR may need all of that Soros money just to build their new Boehner investigations unit.
"We know that President Obama can make a better case to the American people than John Boehner," a Democratic aide told Power Play. "We have the reform label and the president of the United States and they have the lobbyists' best friend. Democrats will retain the ‘change' label, and Boehner will be Mr. More of the Same."
But Boehner doesn't have to make a case to the American people. He just has to manage his caucus. The Democratic hope that somehow Boehner will be the face for all of the GOP will soon be blown away by the gale of the 2012 election cycle. John Boehner is not Newt Gingrich. Boehner insiders make it clear that he has zero political ambition beyond his current post.
Boehner has already exceeded his own personal ambitions. When you saw Boehner choke up on election night, it was the reaction of a guy who climbed to the top from the bottom rung of the middle class. The barkeeper's son will be second in presidential succession.
In 1994, the Republican Senate leader Bob Dole was already running for president. Gingrich, no doubt, thought that it should have been him. Their rivalry and own self-interest gave Bill Clinton the opportunity to wriggle free and sprint into a second term. Boehner and Mitch McConnell may disagree, but it won't be over who gets to be the new Mr. Republican.
But just because Boehner knows what his job is doesn't mean that he'll be able to do it.Boehner's mega majority - the largest Republican caucus in 62 years - will make some parts of his job easier and some parts harder than a more modest midterm gain might have.
On the plus side, getting enough votes shouldn't be a problem. On the minus side, he has a lot of rookies to coach.
As soon as the 112th Congress convenes, Boehner is going to have to lead his team through a series of tough votes on taxes, debt and spending. Anybody who watched Boehner's riffs on health care ("Hell no you can't!") and cap and trade knows that the coach can give a pep talk, but it's still going to be a struggle.It's going to be harder still if the senior members who imagine themselves as presidential contenders - perhaps Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana or Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota - think they can score Tea Party points by making Boehner out to be the bad guy.
A Boehner insider tells Power Play that the speaker to be's transition effort is already way ahead of where the GOP effort was in 1994. The goal is to treat the lame duck session later this month like boot camp for new members and a policy retreat for returning ones.
"We have to get things sorted out quickly so we can make this about policies and not personalities," he said. "We need to get everybody thinking about how much work there is to do and how little time there is to do it." It's an open question in the Republican caucus whether Boehner can pull it off. But what's no longer up for debate is whether or not Boehner will be the speaker of the House.
Anyone who would have suggested two years ago that Boehner would be presiding over the House with a majority of this size would have been thought pretty daffy. But here we are, and Republicans agree that while Boehner didn't make the majority, he certainly maximized it with big fundraising and a good message.One of these days, Washington may have to stop underestimating the congressman from Ohio's 8th District.