The Republican in line to be speaker of the House if the GOP gains a majority lashed out at President Barack Obama on Monday, criticizing him for referring to those who disagree with him as "enemies."
At an evening GOP rally in his pivotal home state, Rep. John Boehner cited a recent interview on immigration in which Obama urged Latinos to get out to vote. The president was asked in a Univision Radio interview when changes to immigration policy would be made, and Obama said it would be more difficult if Latino voters don't turn out to punish enemies and reward friends who stand with them on the issues.
Boehner, appearing with other leading GOP candidates, said other presidents used the term for enemies of the United States.
"Today we have a president who uses the word 'enemy' for fellow citizens," Boehner said. "Well, Mr. President, I have a word to describe those people ... that would not be 'enemies.' They are patriots."
In Obama's Oct. 25 interview, he said: "If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,' if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's gonna be harder."
Obama on Monday pulled back from his remarks, telling radio host Michael Baisden that he should have used the word "opponents" instead of "enemies" and that he was trying to send voters the message that they need to support lawmakers who stand with them on the issues.
Obama has visited Ohio 12 times in the past year to support Gov. Ted Strickland and other Democrats in tough races in a nationally pivotal state. On Sunday, he said in Cleveland that voters have a choice "between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess.'
Strickland campaigned Monday in Democrat-heavy northeastern Ohio, beginning his day chatting with train commuters in Cleveland. He's opposed by former Rep. John Kasich, who voted in Delaware County in central Ohio before heading to the Cincinnati rally at Lunken Airport with Senate nominee Rob Portman and other GOP candidates.
Country music star Hank Williams Jr. fired up the Cincinnati crowd, kicking off the rally with his hit, "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight."
Polls in the last weeks have consistently showed Portman running ahead of Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher with a double-digit lead while indicating a narrow race for governor.
A Strickland loss would effect the national political scene. Ohio will lose two House seats because of the 2010 U.S. Census, and its governor will help oversee a partisan redistricting process.
And, should Obama lose a GOP-dominated Ohio in 2012, it would make it more important for him to win other swing states. He carried Ohio in 2008 against Republican John McCain, after George W. Bush won Ohio twice.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writer Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland, and photographers Tony Dejak in Cleveland and Amy Sancetta in Euclid.