Salena Zito

Liberal critics salivate at the notion of Boehner’s potential problem of herding a large majority of ideological freshman. What they fail to consider is that – unlike other years, when party candidates won by running on a collage of localized issues – this majority won with a few large puzzle pieces: cut spending, repeal or reconstitute the health-care bill, shrink government.

Such a mandate makes for cohesion.

“In my view, the biggest challenge will be leading a group of more than 80 new Republicans who will still be learning the ropes at the same time they seek to fulfill their ambitious campaign promises,” says Isaac Wood, a congressional analyst at the University of Virginia.

“What Boehner can do is bring up for a vote all the promises made in the election,” Wood says. “All he needs to do is promise that the House will move on the promises, not that they will get enacted.”

That’s what Newt Gingrich did as speaker in 1995, passing the 10 points of the “Contract with America” in his first 100 days.

Yet Boehner needs an agenda that goes beyond the promises of the GOP’s new “Pledge to America.” In 1995, once Republicans exhausted their “Contract,” they simply had nothing else to work on – and it cost them in the long run.

“I have learned that the most important thing to do in leadership is not to talk the most, but to listen,” Boehner explains. To be successful, he says Republicans must “deliver on what the American people expect from us.”

Boehner says he spent the past year in more than 160 cities, visiting 100 congressional districts and staying in more than 90 hotels, “mostly Holiday Inns.”

This weekend, he plans to get some exercise, to shop at Target, and to do some laundry.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.