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December 4, 2016

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Boehner in Nevada to support Amodei, who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with speaker

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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Speaker of the House John Boehner is seen after delivering his response to President Obama’s remarks about averting default and dealing with the federal deficit, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 25, 2011.

Mark Amodei

Mark Amodei

WASHINGTON — Mark Amodei is getting some powerful Republican assistance on the campaign trail today: House Speaker John Boehner, the nation’s top-ranking member of the GOP, is coming to Reno.

It’s primarily a fundraising trip. Boehner is speaking at a $5,000 and $10,000 per-head breakfast for Amodei. Boehner won’t attend any public events as he did for Jane Corwin in New York’s 26th in May — the last closely contested special election, which Republicans lost in an upset.

Still, his visit will be the first official pairing of two men who don’t really see eye to eye on the biggest issues confronting the GOP since Amodei announced he would seek to fill the seat vacated by Dean Heller’s appointment to the U.S. Senate.

Amodei has spent much of his campaign talking about how in Washington, he wouldn’t vote to raise taxes (Democrats dispute his record there) or the debt limit.

Like Amodei, Boehner’s had his moments on taxes: A month ago, he almost shook hands with President Barack Obama on a “grand bargain” that would have raised revenue. But Boehner walked away from that deal because he said Obama wanted too much on the tax front, and he’s maintained an ascetic no-taxes stance since.

But on the debt ceiling? It could get awkward if anyone asks the question during Boehner’s visit.

Although Amodei was on the stump railing against any proposal to raise the country’s borrowing authority, Boehner was in backrooms desperately trying to coax, school, or force Republicans such as Amodei to vote to support an increase to the debt ceiling.

Sixty-six House Republicans refused to back the debt-limit compromise that eventually passed Congress. Twenty-two Republicans refused to even support Boehner’s own plan, even though in substance it was just a reduced-calorie version of the deficit-reducing cuts and balanced budget amendment-with-spending caps concoction that everyone in the GOP had approved only weeks before.

Had Amodei actually been in Congress to also cast a “no” vote, it wouldn’t have brought the debt-limit bill down — Boehner ended up with a one-vote cushion. But it certainly would have added to the speaker’s political headaches.

Yet Nevada conservatives looking at the apparent disagreement between Boehner and the man who wants to join him in the House say there’s probably an understanding that much of Amodei’s tough talk on the campaign trail is just that, and should he win he would likely walk the party line.

“It’s an interesting dynamic, because Mark, much like Dean Heller, needs to constantly watch his right flank,” said Chuck Muth, a conservative strategist. “On the other hand, he’s going to be the newest member of Congress and the speaker of the House has an awful lot of power and influence.

“(Amodei)’s not the movement conservative, rock-a-vote Tea Party guy,” Muth said. “Heller did a great job of not being a scary radical conservative, but yet voting in a very conservative fashion ... (Amodei) will have to find the right balance.”

Democrats are charging Amodei swings the opposite way: talking the conservative talk to distract from the fact that he’s got a liberal walk when it comes to taxes and spending.

That’s the core message of Amodei’s Democratic opponent, state Treasurer Kate Marshall. She has a favorite retort to Amodei’s claims that he would never raise taxes — noting that while in the Nevada Legislature Amodei sponsored a billion-dollar tax increase.

But Marshall is doing some political gymnastics too, moving to the right of her party’s line.

Marshall — who also claimed she wouldn’t be caught dead voting for the debt ceiling compromise — was clear in Wednesday’s 2nd Congressional District debate that she would not support a supercommittee deficit reduction plan that raised tax revenue despite the fact that almost every Democrat in the Congress has been beating their chests, tables, and anything else within reach to demand that revenue, as well as cuts, be part of the long-term strategy.

Whoever wins — Marshall or Amodei — will have to cast a vote on that plan this winter.

Of course, Marshall won’t have had a potentially awkward moment of reckoning with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi during the campaign. The suggestion that Pelosi would make a campaign appearance in Nevada before Sept. 13, to most Democratic operatives, is quite literally laughable.

Where Pelosi inspired vitriol, Boehner’s tenure as speaker hasn’t yet rendered him the most vilified member of his party. (So far this election cycle, that honor has been reserved for House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who drafted the Medicare-shaking-up legislation that Democrats have pounced on like the catnip cap-and-trade became to Republicans).

Nationally, Boehner’s numbers are plummeting. Forty percent of Americans disapproved of the job he’s doing, while only 33 percent approved in a CNN poll released last week. Last month, before lawmakers went to the trenches in this debt limit fight, 43 percent liked him, and only 32 percent didn’t.

That puts Boehner about on par with Pelosi. Last month, the same CNN poll put her approval rating at 35 percent, while last week it was 31 percent; meanwhile her disapproval rating has remained about the same, moving from 52 to 51 percent.

Slumping popularity or potential of discord with Amodei could have kept him out of the public eye, but it’s just as likely that party officials recognize an event in Reno wouldn’t have the reach of one in Buffalo, N.Y. (Nevada’s 2nd District is more than 38 times the size of New York’s 26th, where Boehner made his public appearance on behalf of Corwin.)

Or perhaps, after being upset in that special election, the GOP is taking no chances risking the speaker’s 2010-victorious brand on what history says should be — but might not be — a victory.

While there still hasn't been any independent polling of this race, even with less than four weeks to go, a new poll from the conservative, Va.-based group Americans for Prosperity puts Amodei a comfortable 13 points ahead of Marshall.

Democrats, however, are taking Amodei's low fundraising numbers (he only put up about half what Marshall did last quarter) and the fact that he's pulling Boehner in to raise some last-minute cash as evidence that the race is still in play.

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