House Speaker John Boehner is facing three Republican primary opponents in the May 6 election, and he is taking no chances with his campaign. The speaker recently hit the airwaves with a positive television spot, quite a surprising development for a nationally prominent elected official who has hardly faced a serious opponent during his 12 US House re-election campaigns.
But, the ad’s message is even more surprising, and for what it doesn’t say, rather than what it does. Boehner himself doesn’t appear in the commercial, only his voice reciting the required disclaimer along with a still photo at its beginning. Rather, specific people from around his district provide a series of testimonials, making laudatory comments about Boehner representing them in Congress. What isn’t included is anyone mentioning that their congressman is the Speaker of the House.
No public polls have been released in the race, and the field consisting of teacher J.D. Winteregg, computer consultant Eric Gurr, and Tea Party activist Matthew Ashworth appears less than imposing on paper, but it is apparent something is brewing in this southwestern Ohio congressional district.
Winteregg, who is a credible candidate, and Gurr are making an effort against the speaker, and it is clear that the latter’s internal polling data is likely showing a weak job approval number within his Republican constituency. With congressional ratings registering all-time lows and his counterpart in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, experiencing seriously upside down ratings, it is more than likely that Boehner is painted with that same brush. The fact that he would begin active campaigning for his party’s nomination, something he’s rarely done since his original election, and that his ad never references that he is the Speaker of the House, preferring just to be characterized as the local congressman, tells us that his current data is less than sufficient.
It is unlikely that the speaker will lose his renomination effort. The fact that he has three opponents in an electoral system with no run-off means it will be very difficult to coalesce the anti-Boehner Republican vote around one candidate. But, should the Speaker not win an overwhelming victory, such result could create national implications and his presence and strength inside the Republican conference might be diminished.
The 8th District of Ohio sits just north of Cincinnati, beginning at the Hamilton County border and containing the populous counties of Butler, Clark, and Miami. It also includes Darke and Preble counties, along with part of Mercer. Springfield, Hamilton, Fairfield, and Middletown are the district’s largest communities. The seat is the most heavily Republican in Ohio, with the GOP presidential nominees in 2008 and 2012 getting 60 and 62 percent, respectively.
The May 6 primaries in Ohio, North Carolina, and Indiana kick-off what will be a string of 29 nomination elections throughout May and June. It appears that the developments in the speaker’s primary may suggest that the political primary fireworks might be igniting early.