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Speaker-to-be John Boehner: More confrontation or a hint of compromise?

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“You had to learn to deal with every character that came through the door,” he said in a recent interview in his House leadership office. “Growing my business, building my team, and serving in this institution for almost 20 years, I think I understand the diversity we have around here and how to manage it.”

Boehner will certainly bring fresh style and substance to the job. Though a committed conservative, he is not an ideologue or firebrand, despite the rhetoric he unleashed toward the White House on the campaign trail. Boehner is pragmatic, typically laid back, and habitually inclined to listen. He watched as House Republican leaders in his day, notably former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and majority leader Tom “the Hammer” DeLay, centralized power in their offices and made themselves the story – and, as a result, some say, fell before their time.

Behind the scenes, across the aisle

Boehner is inclined to work quietly behind the scenes. His instinct is to compromise, but he is not a bipartisan crusader and won’t get out in front of what the Republican caucus is prepared to accept. His public image is that of the consummate Capitol Hill pol – the sharply dressed, smooth-talking lawmaker who once played as many as 100 rounds of golf a year while hitting up lobbyists for big checks.

Former GOP majority leader Dick Armey sees him as Dean Martin without the piano – someone who makes everything look easy. “He is a man wholly without guile,” says Mr. Armey. “I don’t think John Boehner has ever spent a moment of his life in intrigue with respect to anyone else. He is a serious workman and, unlike some previous speakers, doesn’t require attention. He’ll get the job done with little fanfare. It’s not about him.”

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