Obama battles Boehner for Ohio

The stakes are a governor’s mansion, a seat in the U.S.
Senate, and possibly control of the House. A Republican sweep of six House
seats now filled by Democrats could edge the GOP closer to the 40-seat pick-up
the party needs to make Boehner the speaker this fall.

Ohio also will be crucial to Obama’s reelection hopes in
2012. A traditional battleground state, Ohio last picked a losing presidential
candidate in 1960, when its electoral votes went to Republican Richard Nixon
instead of Democrat John F. Kennedy.

{mosads}Given those stakes, Obama has become a frequent flier to
Ohio; Wednesday marks the ninth time since taking office that he has visited
the Buckeye State, which he won by 5 points in the 2008 presidential election
over Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). It’s the fifth time Obama has visited
Ohio this year.

Boehner, the state’s most prominent Republican besides Sen. George Voinovich, who is retiring, is Obama’s critic in
chief, particularly when it comes to Ohio.

He has pilloried the president’s handling of the economy, an
issue that resonates in Ohio, where unemployment has more than doubled from 5
percent in May 2007 to 10.5 percent in June 2010.

“More than 130,000 Ohioans have lost their jobs since
February 2009, and the states’ unemployment rate remains at a painfully-high
10.5 percent,” Boehner said Wednesday in a statement from his office.

Boehner has also taken shots at individual House Democrats
from Ohio, suggesting they will lose this fall.

In March, he said that freshman Democratic Rep. Steven
Driehaus, who, like Boehner, represents a district in the Cincinnati suburbs, was
a “dead man” after his vote for healthcare reform.

“He can’t go home to the West side of Cincinnati,” Boehner
said in a quote that received attention from the Ohio and national press.

Obama has appeared to enjoy teasing Boehner from time to
time in Washington, such as when he described the bronzed minority leader as a
“person of color” at the White House correspondents dinner in 2009.

But Obama and the White House have not been shy at firing
back at Boehner over the economy.

After Boehner likened the Wall Street reform bill’s response
to the financial crisis to using a nuclear weapon on an ant, Obama and
Democrats seized on the perceived gaffe and have made it a repeated element of
their campaign rhetoric. The White House also went after Boehner last week when
Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser accused the GOP leader of
“want[ing] people to lose their jobs.”

Boehner and the White House also sparred Wednesday over
whether new regulations issued by the administration are pulling down the
economy. In response to a request from Boehner for a list of all pending regulations
that could have a cost to the economy of more than $1 billion, the Office of
Management and Budget in a letter to Boehner said regulations issued under
Obama had a $3.1 billion positive impact on the economy.

On Wednesday, Obama met with local families in Columbus to
press his argument that policies enacted by Democrats have helped the economy.
Those meeting Obama included Joe Weithman, who is hopeful he’ll be able to add
employees to his architectural firm because of stimulus projects, according to
the White House.

Weithman’s wife Rhonda, the White House said, was able to
keep her health insurance after losing her job because of subsidies provided
through the $787 billion stimulus package, which Boehner on
Wednesday again attacked.

“The fact is, the president’s ‘stimulus’ spending spree is
not delivering the results he promised it would,” Boehner said in a statement,
noting Ohio has lost 130,000 jobs in the last 18 months.

Polls suggest Obama and Democrats have their work cut out
for them if they want to hold on to electoral offices won in 2006 and 2008 in

Republican Rob Portman, a former Bush administration trade
representative and budget director running for the Senate seat Voinovich is vacating, leads Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in two
recent polls.

Democrats have tried to use Portman’s ties to the previous
administration against him, but a Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier this month
suggested those arguments haven’t gained traction. The survey showed Portman up
by 7 points among likely voters.

Driehaus and fellow Democratic freshmen Reps. John Boccieri and Mary Jo Kilroy are in toss-up races, according to the Cook Political Report.
Kilroy, who voted for healthcare reform, Wall Street reform and climate change
legislation, attended Wednesday’s event with Obama.

Another two Ohio House Democrats, Reps. Betty Sutton and Zack
Space, both second-term lawmakers, also face tough races this fall.

Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who also attended Wednesday’s event
with Obama, narrowly trails former House Republican John Kasich.

Tags Boehner Joe Biden John McCain Rob Portman

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