Boehner resists temptation, stays out of race for 2012 Republican nomination

Boehner resists temptation, stays out of race for 2012 Republican nomination

At every turn of the topsy-turvy Republican presidential race, the questions have flown at Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE. Will you endorse? Is it getting too nasty? Should Newt drop out?

No matter the question, the answer has stayed virtually the same: Nice try.

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE (R-Ohio), the top GOP elected official in the country, has not endorsed a presidential candidate, and he has no plans to anytime soon. The most obvious window would have been last week, when the political world turned its attention to his home state of Ohio.

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Boehner's No. 2 in the House, Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Democrats' strategy conundrum: a 'movement' or a coalition? The biggest political upsets of the decade Bottom Line MORE (R-Va.), used the Super Tuesday moment to hop off the fence and back Mitt Romney ahead of the barely competitive Virginia primary. (Two of the four hopefuls, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, couldn't get on the ballot.)

Boehner told reporters he had voted in the Ohio primary, but he wouldn't say for whom.

The Speaker usually briefs reporters at least twice a week when the House is in session. While the Capitol press corps has long since given up hope that Boehner will offer up an impromptu endorsement, reporters still push him to opine on the 2012 race, often to little avail.

“You've all tried now for over a year to get me to embroil myself in the presidential primaries. And I'm not going there,” Boehner said late last month.

He offered a nearly verbatim response on Thursday, when a reporter asked him whether Gingrich, the man who once held Boehner’s job, should drop out of the race.

After some more pestering, he said: “I’m not involved on who should stay in and who should stay out.”

On another occasion, the Speaker told a reporter he got “a big A” for effort, but he still refused to entertain a presidential inquiry.

Romney has won the support of some of Boehner’s closest friends in Congress, including Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony US prosecutors bring new charges against China's Huawei Graham vows to approach Hunter Biden probe with caution: 'I'm not going to be the Republican Christopher Steele' MORE (N.C.) and Rep. Steven LaTourette (Ohio), but the Speaker has said nice things about each of the four remaining candidates.

“Rick Santorum and I came to Congress together in 1990. We worked together. We're great friends. And, you know, I'm not endorsing him,” he said in February. “I'm not endorsing my other good friend, Newt Gingrich, my other good friend, Mitt Romney, or the guy I've worked with for 18 years, here, Ron Paul.

“They're all good people and the American people will get to decide,” he added.

Boehner’s neutrality owes both to his official duties as chief officer of the House and to his political role as chairman of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

“He thinks it would be unwise and potentially prejudicial for him to get involved,” Boehner’s political spokesman, Cory Fritz, said.

Fritz said that while Boehner may have run into the candidates at party events, such as the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, he has not had extensive, in-person conversations with any of them in the past few months. Nor have they pushed him for an endorsement. “They’re pretty clear about where he stands,” Fritz said.

When the GOP settles on a nominee, Fritz said, Boehner will support him "100 percent."

In 2008, Boehner was House minority leader and had also served as convention chairman. He endorsed the eventual Republican nominee, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEleventh Democratic presidential debate to be held in Phoenix Moderate Democrats now in a race against the clock Biden on Graham's push for investigation: 'I don't know what happened' to him MORE (Ariz.), on Feb. 13, after his victories in key Super Tuesday contests made him the likely winner of the primaries. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Rep. Ron Paul remained in the race at that point, but Romney, then a top McCain rival, had dropped out a week earlier.

As the frontrunner for most of the 2012 campaign, Romney has faced more difficulty than McCain, and while his lead in the delegate race and his fund-raising advantage make him the likely nominee, Boehner is unlikely to endorse him until his victory is assured.

On the rare occasions when Boehner has entertained a question on the primary battle, he has downplayed concerns that the rancorous nomination fight will hurt the party’s chances to win back the White House.

“No one likes to see nasty campaigns,” he said on the PBS “Newshour” last month. “But I would remind you that the fight in 2008 between Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaScarborough: Media 'parroting' Trump economy when Obama's 'was much stronger' Trump rejects Obama taking credit for strong economy On The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOmar endorses progressive Georgia Democrat running for House seat Bernie Sanders's Super Tuesday problem Democrats worried about Trump's growing strength MORE went on through June of that year. And, so while I would rather not see it, it's part of the political process. Out of this will come our nominee. And I don't think it will have any impact on the November election.”