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No ‘Man Crush’ on Romney in House GOP

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
After a meeting of the House Republican Conference, Speaker John Boehner conducts a news conference in the Capitol where Members discussed presidential candidate Mitt Romney and efforts to repeal the health care law.

“I’m going to be enthusiastic about voting for Gov. Romney in November. And I think the American people will be enthusiastic about voting for Gov. Romney in November,” Boehner said.

Asked whether he stands by the Wheeling remarks, Boehner said, “The point I was trying to make is very simply this: The election this November is going to be a referendum on the president’s failed economic policies.”

If Boehner reached out to Romney to patch things up after the remarks became public, he hasn’t told many people. Several of his closest House allies said they weren’t aware of any conversations between the two.

Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), a close Boehner friend, said he sat next to the Speaker at the fundraiser.

The woman who asked the question, LaTourette said, had introduced herself to Boehner as a Democrat at a receiving line earlier in the evening.

Her question, then, was about how Republicans will convince American voters to “love” Romney, not an invitation for personal conversion, LaTourette said.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said the problem might be that Boehner and Romney haven’t spent enough time together.

“I’ve been around him probably more than the Speaker, and I have the confidence the more I got to know him,” the Texas lawmaker said.

“I have found that by being next to Mitt Romney, he exudes great confidence, he’s very good at communicating and he’s straightforward.”

The day after Boehner’s remarks went public, Majority Leader Eric Cantor attended a lunch fundraiser with Romney in East Hampton, N.Y.

The Virginia Republican came back raving about Romney to colleagues, Chaffetz said, saying “what a great guy he was. And just how much fun they had together. They really enjoyed it. You need to spend time with somebody to get to know him. And as people do so, he’ll naturally win them over.”

When circumstances have forced Boehner and Romney to work together, they haven’t been close.

“They had crossed paths, but just a few times,” Chaffetz said.

A recent story in The Hill claimed that their “bond ... has become stronger in recent weeks.” But the piece had the unfortunate timing of coming out just after Boehner’s lukewarm fundraiser assessment was made public.

For some, the timing was evidence that Boehner’s office was working to counteract the damage from the initial story.

Boehner “is apparently seeking to ease the fallout after a report unearthed his remarkably candid take on Mitt Romney,” Talking Points Memo wrote.

In fact, the timing was a coincidence, and The Hill’s story had been in the works for more than a week, sources said.

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