Tea Party activist David Lewis will challenge House Speaker John Boehner in next year's Republican primary, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Although the Tea Party tends to focus on economic issues -- cutting taxes and government spending -- Lewis said he planned to run almost exclusively on an anti-abortion platform.
Boehner is an establishment Republican, Lewis told The Enquirer. He doesn't believe in the Tea Party. He doesn't really believe in the pro-life issues.
Boehner's office declined to comment, but the local Republican Party chairman criticized Lewis.
I have no issue on educating the public on the wrongs of abortion, Dave Kern, the chairman, told The Enquirer. But I think the young man is mistaken to try to do damage to a committed soldier in this battle. His efforts could be spent more productively in other directions, and that's certainly what I would advise.
A recent New York Times-CBS News poll showed that a majority of Republicans -- about 60 percent -- believed abortion should be legal, with or without more restrictions, so it is unclear whether a campaign based primarily on opposition to abortion would appeal to voters. Even among voters who believe abortion should be illegal, many are more concerned with the economy, which is why single-issue campaigns are often risky.
Boehner lost a lot of Tea Party support for agreeing to a budget deal in April that avoided a government shutdown but did not cut spending by as much as the Tea Party had wanted or as much as Boehner had promised in his campaign. But Lewis isn't running on that platform.
Instead, he is hoping to capitalize on Tea Party discontent with Boehner's decision to compromise with Democrats on the issue of federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He told The Enquirer that he would run graphic anti-abortion ads, because people will not reject abortion until people see abortion.
This is the one message the Tea Party needs to be out there pushing, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips told Fox News shortly after the House announced the Planned Parenthood compromise, under which federal funds will be distributed to the states instead of directly to Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations. If you don't live up to your promise, we're going to throw you out.
One thing Lewis has going for him is that public approval of Congress is at an all-time low, and Republican incumbents are faring especially poorly. The New York Times-CBS News poll found that only 12 percent of voters approved of the performance of Congress as a whole, and 80 percent disapproved. The approval rate for Democrats in Congress was just 28 percent, and the rate for Republicans, 19 percent, was even lower.
With numbers like that, any incumbent is potentially vulnerable -- but Lewis still faces an uphill battle, especially considering that the Tea Party's approval rating in the same poll was nearly as bad: 21 percent.
He is also only 26 years old -- just one year past the constitutional minimum age for House members -- and has little political experience beyond participating in Tea Party activities. It seems highly unlikely that Lewis could unseat the highest House official -- who defeated two challengers in the 2010 Republican primary with 85 percent of the vote -- and he acknowledged as much in his interview with The Enquirer.
I'm not delusional, he said. I don't know if I have a chance at beating the speaker of the House, but what I can do is show the Ohio voters that Boehner has a box full of empty rhetoric.