NAPLES, Fla.—Pundits and party operatives from both sides of the aisle are publicly downplaying the importance of the upcoming presidential debates between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. But not House Speaker John Boehner. He sees the contests as crucial for the Republican challenger.
Speaking at a small rally here in this Republican stronghold Tuesday, Boehner emphasized the value of a strong debate performance and suggested that public opinion polls showing Obama leading Romney should be taken lightly before the big night.
"Now listen, you've seen all this polling data. It's almost comical," Boehner told about 70 Republicans who gathered at the Collier County Victory Center. "Because what this is today is a dead-heat election. It is as close as anything that you've seen. These debates over the next couple of weeks are going to be very important for our team. One thing you know about me is that I never give up."
One day before Obama and Romney square off in Denver for the first of three debates, national opinion surveys indeed suggest a close race, but other polls show Obama leading in battleground states. In order to reach the 270 Electoral College votes required to clinch the presidency, winning most of those swing states will be crucial for both candidates.
Boehner added that he thought Romney's economic plan would be the candidate's strongest card during the matchup.
"The American people vote with their wallets," Boehner said. "And this really is about our economy. When he lays out a plan to fix our tax code to stop the overreach of regulations coming out of Washington, to get our debt problem under control, and to have a national energy policy, let me tell you what, the American people will respond."