I spend a fair amount of time among conservatives and pro-life activists. In their company, Boehner's name rarely comes up. For some it's a distrust of those in power that keeps them from embracing him. For some it's his style, his look and feel. But the fact of the matter is that Boehner managed to hold his caucus together on the health-care vote, and on other matters, he's kept the pro-choice crowd and its cronies on the ruling left in check -- as much as a minority leader can. He's also got a solid record of doing all kinds of things that are popular right now; for example, he's never taken an earmark in his life.
In a speech to a conservative audience this winter, Boehner insisted that Republicans in the House wouldn't "bend on ... the issue of the sanctity of life." He explained: "In November, Republican lawmakers joined with some Democrat lawmakers to stop them from using any federal taxpayer funds ... to provide for abortions in America. ... We got some flak for working with the other side." But this is what you call principled leadership. Even though he hated the bill, if it were going to pass, he wanted taxpayer funding of abortion to be no part of it. After Stupak's abortion-protection language was included in the House bill before its passage last year, Boehner went to the House floor three times and asked Democratic committee chairmen Charlie Rangel, Henry Waxman, and George Miller to pledge to support it when the time came for conference negotiations with the Senate. Because abortion was a priority of theirs, they would not. (Too bad that Stupak, wanting the bill to pass, didn't feel as strongly about the sanctity of the unborn when his leadership moment arrived.) Recalling what went down late last year, Boehner said: "When it comes to protecting the unborn, we'll take the votes wherever we can get them ... We did the right thing for the right reasons. And we're showing ... the American people that there's a clear difference between the two parties."