As the midterm election campaign heats up, President Obama is openly clashing with House Republican Minority Leader John Boehner, who stands to take over the powerful position of Speaker of the House if the GOP takes control of Congress, as expected. Obama, avoiding using Boehner's name, said "the Republican who thinks he's going to take over as speaker" has nothing to offer, other than to say "no" to Democratic policies, even if they save jobs. Boehner has accused Obama of "whining," and on Wednesday proposed extending all Bush tax cuts for two years and rolling back spending to 2008 levels to boost the economy and contain the deficit. Who's coming out on top in this high-profile feud? (Watch Obama's latest dig at Boehner)
Boehner's the clear winner: This is great theater — "the Obama emblem of hope and change vs. Boehner, the symbol of 'no,'" says Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post. But Boehner's the clear winner here. Just like when Obama sparred with Rush Limbaugh, the fight is elevating Boehner's importance. And Boehner's fiscal sanity makes sense — "'no'" is a pretty sound position when the nation is careening off a cliff."
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This puts Obama where he needs to be — on offense: With a weak economy and "an enraged Republican base," the midterms will be rough for Democrats, says Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. But Obama's attack on Boehner will hammer home the message that the GOP "will take America backwards, and be even more extreme than the GOP of the Bush/Cheney era." Maybe voters are so angry at Washington they'll vote for "discredited" Republicans anyway, but Obama's high-profile "offensive" will at least give his party a fighting chance.
Unless they call a truce, both lose: The "Obama-Boehner dispute" is fine for the campaign, say Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan at Politico, but after the November elections they'd better find a way to work together. Otherwise, Obama will never "turn around the sputtering U.S. economy" and "get his presidency back on track" — and Boehner will look like a failure because he'll never "get anything enacted into law." If that happens, Obama and Boehner both lose.
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