By Russell Berman - 02/01/12 04:03 PM EST
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has a simple message for Republicans fretting about a protracted, bitter GOP presidential primary: “Relax.”
Boehner has resisted frequent entreaties for him to weigh in on the nominating battle, but Wednesday he briefly chimed in to downplay concerns that the primary process would damage the party’s ability to win the White House in November.
“So I think everybody just needs to relax and this will resolve itself.”
Democrats have countered the argument that a long primary would strengthen the Republican nominee as it did Obama, pointing to polling data showing much lower enthusiasm among GOP voters for their party’s candidates than among Democrats for Obama and Clinton four years ago.
Boehner and other House GOP leaders have stayed neutral in the primary fight. Within the leadership team, only Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) endorsed a candidate, and his pick, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has dropped out of the race.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has said he might endorse a candidate, and he has expressed hopes that the primary can wrap up sooner rather than later.