Dan Horn reports
House Speaker John Boehner knew he’d find a friendly crowd Saturday when he arrived in Liberty Township to open the Republican Party’s Butler County campaign office.
So instead of trying to win their votes, Boehner reminded the 50 or so party loyalists who attended that getting their fellow Republicans to the polls will be crucial if they’re serious about beating President Barack Obama this fall.
“Ohio is going to decide this election,” Boehner said. “If we win Ohio, Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States.”
Although Butler County has been a GOP stronghold for years and likely will be again this fall, Republicans and Democrats see it as a crucial battleground.
Republicans want to run up as big a win as possible here to offset Democratic strengths in some of Ohio’s northern counties, while Democrats want to peel away as many votes as they can on the Speaker’s home turf, known as “Boehner Land” to some of his supporters.
Boehner, of West Chester, told the crowd it wasn’t enough to vote themselves. He said they also need to encourage others to go to the polls.
“Butler County is one of those critical counties where we’ve got to drive up the turnout,” he said.
The sense of urgency comes four months after Butler County voters stayed away from the polls in droves during the March 6 Ohio primary. Turnout was about 18 percent, even though the Republican primary still was hotly contested.
In a county that gave 60 percent of the vote to John McCain in 2008, Republicans know a good showing can make a difference this fall.
“Butler County is kind of the epicenter in Ohio,” said Kevin Crowther, a Liberty Township resident who attended the rally Saturday. He and dozens of others went door-to-door after Boehner’s speech to hand out pro-Romney brochures and to urge Republicans to vote.
Democrats said Boehner’s appearance at the opening Saturday suggests the GOP is worried about winning Butler County by the kind of margin they’ve seen in the past.
“The fact that it’s July and Speaker Boehner felt compelled to open an office in Butler County speaks to what the Republicans are up against,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.