Boehner, Obama Clash In War Of Words
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Ohio returns to a familiar role this election season as a hotly contested battleground. Over the past few days it has been the stage for a clash of ideas and personalities that could define Washington politics over the next two years.
If Republicans take control of the U.S. House, minority leader John Boehner of Ohio becomes Speaker Boehner, making him the GOP counterweight to President Obama. Both stumped yesterday in Ohio. A few miles apart, each was talking to and about the other.
NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Columbus.
DON GONYEA: The main task in the final days and hours before the election for President Obama and Republican leader John Boehner has been to Get Out the Vote, to fire up the base. And to do that, each has been invoking the words of the other.
For nearly two years, President Obama has portrayed Republicans as the Party of No. Now he's updated that charge, thanks to a statement by Boehner.
Here's the minority leader last Wednesday on "The Sean Hannity Radio Show."
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (R-Ohio, Minority Leader): And I can tell, Sean, that we will not compromise on our principles and we will not compromise on the will of the American people.
GONYEA: Now here's President Obama in Cleveland last night, reacting.
President BARACK OBAMA: I guess they're feeling cocky, maybe. The Republican leader of House says "this is not a time for compromise" - thats a quote. The Republican leader of the Senate said his main goal for the next two years, his top priority is to win the next election and to beat me.
(Soundbite of crowd)
Unidentified Woman: No.
GONYEA: Boehner, meanwhile, is doing the same thing at stop after stop in Ohio, from Toledo to Zanesville, to Columbus to Chillicothe, he's been talking about this comment President Obama made in an interview last week with the Spanish language TV network Univision.
President OBAMA: And if Latinos sit out the election, instead of saying we're going to punish our enemies and we're going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us - if they dont see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's going to be harder.
GONYEA: Enter Boehner, who tells audiences that when Presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes used the word enemy, it was to describe terrorists or dictators.
Rep. BOEHNER: And for the president to use that word about people who oppose bigger government, people who are freedom-loving and love our Constitution, I tell you, I've got to find that very appalling.
GONYEA: All of this is about defining the opposition. It's also like a certain sport, says political scientist Ross Baker of Rutgers University.
Professor ROSS BAKER (Political Science, Rutgers University): What it seems to me to be very much similar to is the weigh-in before a championship prize fight, in which the two contenders sort trash talk to each other, do mind games.
GONYEA: And Baker says if Boehner becomes speaker, as expected, then this is just the beginning.
Don Gonyea, NPR News, Columbus.