LISBON - The man who could become the next House speaker conceded that at one time the Republican leadership didn't believe GOP candidate Bill Johnson stood much of a chance of beating U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson.
"I tell you the race wasn't on anyone's charts," House Minority Leader John Boehner, told a crowd of about 200 during a campaign rally held Saturday outside The Spread Eagle Tavern.
"I met Bill in August for the first time, and he kept telling me, 'We're going to win this, you'd better keep an eye on this," Boehner recalled.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, addresses a crowd of about 200 during a campaign rally held Saturday outside The Spread Eagle Tavern. He appeared in our area to throw support behind GOP Bill Johnson who is opposing incumbent Charlie Wilson in Tuesday’s 6th Congressional District race. (Salem News photo by /Patti Schaeffer
But that was then and many political observers are now saying Johnson has a shot at defeating Wilson in Tuesday's election. The Republican Party apparently thinks so too, as evident by the number of TV advertisements it has been funding on Johnson's behalf over the past several weeks and Boehner's campaign appearance.
"The reason we're all here today is because Bill Johnson and his campaign have done a whale of a job putting them on the map," Boehner said.
The Columbus Dispatch, in a story that appeared yesterday, wrote that Wilson, D-St. Clairsville, is a now considered vulnerable by some political experts because of the anti-incumbent/Obama backlash sweeping the nation. They said the presence of two conservative third-party candidates, Martin Elsass and Richard Cadle, could still siphon enough votes away from Johnson for Wilson to survive.
The Dispatch reported that although Republicans probably don't need Wilson's seat to reclaim majority status in the House, a Johnson victory could very well presage a political catastrophe for other Democrats previously thought to be safe.
Boehner's and Johnson's speeches were short on specifics but long on political rhetoric designed to fire up supporters heading into the final days before the election.
For example, Boehner referred to comments President Obama made last week while being interviewed on a Hispanic TV program, telling Latino voters that instead of staying home on election day they should go to the polls and "punish our enemies" and "reward our friends."
"You know, when President Bush, President Reagan, President Clinton and George W. Bush used the word enemies, they were referring to global terrorism or dictators around the world who hated freedom and hated America. 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 find that very appalling," he said.
"Mr. President, I've got a word for those people who oppose you're policies, those people who love our country and Constitution, who love freedom and the principles America was founded on. You know what I call them? Not enemies. They're patriots," Boehner said.
Johnson, a businessman from Poland and retired Air Force officer, said the nation is at a crossroads whether it wants to continue down the path of what he characterized as out-of-control federal spending or attempt to rein in the federal budget.
"It's going to determine whether or not we re-establish hope and prosperity for our children and grandchildren," he said of the election.
Following the rally, Johnson said he was going to the airport to meet his one-month-old granddaughter for the first time.
"She can't talk, but I guarantee you if she could she'd tell us she's pretty ticked off. You see, she came into this world approximately $40,000 in debt. The Office of Management and Budget says by the end of this year our national economy will be 62 percent national debt. Now, I wasn't a math major in college but my computer works, and I think it means the federal government is borrowing 62 cents for every dollar it spends and putting us and future generations further in debt," he said.
Johnson said Wilson has voted for nearly every major spending program put before him by Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, such as TARP, stimulus and health care, all the while portraying himself as a fiscal conservative.
"This is the kind of irresponsible leadership that says one thing, that I'm a blue-dog conservative in the district and then going to Washington and voting with Nancy Pelosi 98 percent of the time," he said.
Boehner recalled what President Obama said earlier this year, when the Republicans disagreed with the president and the Democratic leadership's approach to overhauling health care. "He said, 'That's what elections are for.' Well, he's right. Because if you're tired of the bailouts, tired of the stimulus, tired of the government trying to take over everything, remember what the president said: That's what election are for."