Most people don't know who John Boehner is. Forty percent of Americans don't know enough about the man who is almost certain to be the next Speaker of the House, unlike the current person holding that title, Nancy Pelosi, who was rich material for conservative attack ads. But that will change once Boehner takes over his new gig, Chris Cillizza writes at The Fix, and the "question is whether Boehner is defined in a more positive or more negative light for voters as his profile rises.""During the fall campaign, the White House -- and President Obama himself -- singled out Boehner as uninterested in fighting for and protecting the middle class." Democrats will only step up that charge "as they seek to replicate the success the party had in turning then Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) into a Republican bogeyman." But Boehner's buddies say he's not looking for the spotlight and will probably emulate low-profile Denny Hastert.
"The fight to define Boehner will be one of the central storylines over the next year," Cillizza reports. "Can he cast himself as a voice for the average person? Or will Democrats succeed in making him symbolic of a too-cozy relationship between Republicans and the business community?"
- Working on That Regular Guy Persona Already, Patricia Murphy writes at Politics Daily. Boehner announced he will fly commercial back and forth from Washington, instead of taking military jets as Pelosi and Hastert did. "Beyond changing travels arrangements, Boehner also said he wants the House of Representatives to be more open and transparent than in years past. To tackle that job, he has tapped Rep. Greg Walden to lead a group of GOP members to propose changes to House rules and procedures." He also wants to freeze federal pay.
- Boehner's Image Gets a Boost Jeffrey M. Jones reports for Gallup. For the first time in a year, more people had a favorable view than an unfavorable one of Boehner following the midterm elections. "The boost in Boehner's image has come largely from Republicans, whose favorable ratings of him jumped by 20 points after the party's successful election night showing. Independents' views became slightly more positive, and Democrats' opinions are largely unchanged. ... That 20-point increase among Republicans for Boehner is twice as large as the increase Democrats gave Reid after the 2006 midterm elections."
- Unclear Where Boehner Goes from Here, Jones continues. "It is not clear what direction Boehner's favorable and unfavorable ratings may take while he is speaker. Americans viewed past Speakers Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert at least slightly more positively than negatively until frustration grew with their parties' stewardship of the government. On the other hand, Americans' opinions of Newt Gingrich quickly soured after he took over as speaker in 1995, and they remained that way throughout his tenure."
- A Tough Job Ahead, Michael Falcone and Amy Walter write at The Note. "Boehner pledged on Capitol Hill yesterday 'to fix the Congress so that the Congress can focus in on Americans' priorities,' adding that 'their priorities are pretty straightforward.' But a new poll out today indicates that the public’s priorities may not be quite as 'straightforward' as he and his fellow Republicans would like. On the issue of repealing the health care reform law, for example, the American people appear to have mixed feelings. Just 39 percent are behind the GOP’s push to repeal or minimize it, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted after last Tuesday’s elections. Another 58 percent of Americans actually say they prefer more changes to the country’s health care system or would simply like the new law to stay in place as is. "
- Fiscal Responsibility Isn't So Easy, Ezra Klein writes. Obama's debt committion released its recommendations Wednesday, and they could put Boehner in an uncomfortable position with his base. The commission called for an end to the mortgage tax deduction, tax employer-provided health insurance, and raise the Social Security retirement age. Boehner didn't comment, but "Republican anti-tax activist Grover Norquist was not happy and warned that Republicans who support the proposal would be breaking their pledge not to raise taxes."
- Scrutiny over Committee Chairs, as Dan Riehl frets that Boehner might "blow it." Tea Party conservatives are no fans of Jerry Lewis, who wants to take over the appropriations committee, or Hal Rogers, who would be second in line for the spot. "I'm not sure Republicans realize the kind of scrutiny they're going to face what with the Tea Party movement and new media remaining engaged. It would be a shame to see them blow it right out of the gate. Any failure to deliver over the next two years is going to come with a steep price."