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Boehner confident of GOP chances

House GOP meets to discuss November election strategy

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite President Bush's lagging approval ratings and a spate of negative publicity, House Majority Leader John Boehner appears sure that the GOP can fend off Democrats in this year's congressional elections.

That confidence was expressed in an interview Friday, as House Republicans prepared to meet behind closed doors to plot election strategy.

"The numbers aren't real good right now. There's no sense in kidding anybody about that," Boehner said. "But if we get ourselves together and get ourselves on offense and do what the American people expect of us, we're going to do fine in November." (Watch Boehner discuss challenges facing the GOP)

In contrast, Boehner said, Democrats "don't have any ideas."

"We've been hearing about their contract, their big package. We hear about it, we hear about it, but we never see it," he said.

House Republicans are attending a private retreat at a resort on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where Bush visited Friday to rally his GOP colleagues. The president spent about 90 minutes answering their questions.

"We've got a record, and it's a record of accomplishment," said the president, who received a standing ovation when he was introduced. "And we're ready to lead again. We don't fear the future because we're going to shape the future."

Reporters were allowed to hear Bush's remarks, but were told to leave before the question-and-answer session. However, the feed from Bush's microphone was mistakenly left on, enabling reporters to hear the president again defend the controversial National Security Agency wiretapping program. (Full story)

Bush authorized the NSA to eavesdrop, without a warrant, on the communications of people inside the United States in contact with suspected al Qaeda operatives overseas.

Many Democrats and some Republicans have expressed doubts about whether Bush had the authority to authorize such wiretaps.

It is the latest in a string of controversies that have dogged Republicans lately, buoying Democratic hopes of an electoral turnaround in the fall.

Boehner, from Ohio, was elected majority leader last week, replacing Rep. Tom DeLay, who was forced to step down after being indicted in his home state of Texas on conspiracy and money laundering charges relating to fundraising for state legislative races. A judge in December dismissed the conspiracy charge. DeLay has denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The political imbroglio surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff also has sharpened the focus on relationships between members of Congress and lobbyists, prompting lawmakers from both parties to push for reform legislation.

The revelation this week that Boehner rents an apartment in Washington from a lobbyist also has grabbed unwanted headlines, but the majority leader said he thinks "the whole story is silly."

"I think I pay more than market price for a basement apartment," he said. "Why can't I rent an apartment from someone who happens to be a lobbyist?

"They're normal human beings. They have a job to do," he said. "If it weren't for lobbyists, the legislative process could never work."

Heading into the November election, the House has 231 Republicans, 201 Democrats, two vacancies and 1 independent who usually votes with the Democrats.

Democrats need to make a net gain of at least 15 seats to take control of the House. The last time Democrats managed to pull off a swing that large was in 1982, following an economic recession.

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