By Russell Berman - 08/23/10 10:38 PM EDT
Democrats struck Republican leader John Boehner on two fronts Monday, sending out a fundraising appeal centered on a “Speaker Boehner” and criticizing an economic speech he plans for Tuesday.
The coordinated moves were part of their effort to make Boehner (R-Ohio) one of their key foils heading into the November election.
“John Boehner and the Republican leadership wouldn't know a new idea if they tripped on it,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told reporters on a Monday conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Kevin Smith, a spokesman for the minority leader, said Boehner would use his remarks to “outline common-sense solutions to end the ongoing economic uncertainty, boost small business job creation, and end the spending spree in Washington.”
With their candidates on the defensive around the country, Democrats have tried to turn the spotlight on Republicans and what they say is the GOP’s lack of original ideas.
Democrats predicted Boehner would offer plenty of well-worn criticism of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress in his speech, but “what you won’t hear is what Republicans would actually do,” Wasserman Schultz said.
In addition to the conference call, Democrats circulated a fundraising appeal warning of a “Speaker Boehner.”
"Protecting the House and keeping John Boehner's hand off the speaker's gavel is a top priority for this election," DNC Executive Director Jen O'Malley Dillon said in an e-mail to supporters. "To become the next speaker, Boehner has to help the Republicans win 39 seats they don't currently hold. To ensure that doesn't happen, we're planning the largest voter turnout operation for a midterm election in history. We will knock on more doors, make more calls, and outwork the GOP in every district with a competitive race."
Asked if Boehner’s speech would be a “measuring the drapes moment” for the minority leader, Wasserman Schultz said, “I look at it as a smoking the drapes moment.”
Republicans characterized the Democrats’ decision to promote Boehner’s speech as a desperate move made out of fear.
“Democrats know their majority is in jeopardy, and they can’t defend their indefensible record,” Smith said. “They claim Republicans have yet to articulate an economic plan, but House Republicans handed one to President Obama at the White House back in December, and it’s available online.”
While Republicans have accused Democrats of busting the budget with excessive spending, Democrats have pointed out the soaring deficits the GOP left in place during its eight years in power.
Voters have consistently labeled the economy as their No.1 concern going into the November election.
A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans believe the economy will get worse. And, in its latest rankings, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report found Republicans have a strong chance of winning the 39 nine seats the party needs to retake the House, predicting the GOP could net as many as 45 seats.
Boehner’s speech also raises the stakes in Ohio, a perennial swing state where the midterm elections are shaping up to be as close — and as crucial — as in previous national campaigns. A Senate seat, the governor’s mansion and several House seats are up for grabs, and a GOP takeover of Congress would put Boehner in the Speaker’s office.
President Obama last week made his ninth visit to the Buckeye State since taking office, and Vice President Joe Biden traveled there on Monday, where he touted the administration’s efforts to save the U.S. auto industry and raised funds for Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
Boehner has played the role of Obama’s critic in chief, particularly when it comes to Ohio. Besides the state’s importance in the 2012 presidential race, both parties want a hand in the redistricting process there, as Ohio is predicted to lose two House seats after the federal Census is complete.