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Boehner: Obama’s Popularity Rests on Economic Turnaround

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday praised President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night, prime-time address, but said that if the stimulus package doesn’t turn the economy around, Obama’s popularity is likely to suffer.

“With a few exceptions, it was a speech I could have given, probably not as well, but it was a very conservative speech if you want to get into ideology,” Boehner told a group of reporters at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “But actions speak louder than words.”

Boehner cautioned that it was crucial to separate Obama’s popularity from his policy proposals.

“I want him to succeed. America needs him to succeed, but when you get into the stimulus bill itself and what was done, it’s not anywhere near as popular,” Boehner said. “And I’ll suggest to you that as this money begin to dribble out, it’s going to become less popular.”

During the hourlong conversation that spanned policy and politics, Boehner defended his Conference’s efforts to cooperate with the new president and said that, given time, the public would realize that the GOP was acting in good faith.

“We are doing everything we can to work with the president where we can. As you all know, there are differences between Democrats and Republicans,” Boehner said. “I think the president certainly didn’t want to start the way he did. I think clearly he wanted more participation. He wanted House Democrats to allow more participation from us.”

Asked whether the Republicans’ relationship with the business community was damaged because of their opposition to the stimulus bill that groups like the National Association Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed, Boehner said they were simply being pragmatic given that the Democrats control both chambers of Congress.

“They’ve got to do what they have to do,” he said.

He added that the trade groups’ support did not undermine Republican opposition to the bill because, at the end of the day, he believes most Americans will realize the stimulus was bad for the country.

He demurred when asked about the response given by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), which was widely panned.

The lunch was not without levity.

During a conversation about merit pay for teachers, Boehner said educators who are outstanding should be paid more for their efforts. He called the issue “critical.”

“We all know that there are good teachers, and there are probably teachers that aren’t as good … and what we do is we pay the same,” Boehner said. “This doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

“Happens in Congress,” a reporter retorted.

“Oh yeah, there’s another good reason that it shouldn’t,” Boehner joked, referring to the same-pay-for-all policy.

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