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Boehner says presidential campaigns 'get off message'

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu September 20, 2012
House Speaker John Boehner tried to bring GOP campaign focus back to the economy.
House Speaker John Boehner tried to bring GOP campaign focus back to the economy.
  • House speaker sidesteps questions about Mitt Romney's comments on President Obama's supporters
  • Boehner says presidential race 'far from over', wants GOP to focus on the economy, jobs
  • Boehner says he's looking forward to election stretch drive: 'I just hope I survive'

Washington (CNN) -- House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged Thursday that presidential campaigns get "off message," but sidestepped questions about GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's controversial comments that have put congressional Republicans in the awkward position of defending their nominee.

"Everybody is going to try to make this election about everything other than what it is. The American people are asking the question, where are the jobs? And so the focus is on jobs," Boehner insisted at a news conference.

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Romney's remarks, leaked on a video from a May fund-raiser in Florida, showed the Republican candidate dismissing 47% of Americans "who are dependent on government" and will vote for President Barack Obama "no matter what."

Romney pivots after controversy

Instead of answering questions about those comments, Boehner repeatedly pivoted back to the issue he has been pounding on for months -- jobs.

The Ohio Republican said Romney has a plan to get people back to work and cited his own personal experience, noting two of his brothers and two of his brothers-in-law have recently lost their jobs in the economic downturn.

And Boehner signaled he was pushing for his party to zero-in the on the economy.

"You're going to have candidates -- both campaigns, on both sides -- say things that get off the message. The message is: Let's stay focused on jobs because that's what the American people want us to stay focused on."

Romney campaign aims to recalibrate campaign around economic message

The speaker also criticized recent talk among political pundits questioning Romney's chances, dismissing it as "political hand-wringing by these Washington insiders."

Boehner emphasized that he believed in a Gallup poll that showed Romney within a point of Obama and said, "this race is far from over."

In a nod to the battle that remains until the November election, Boehner quipped: "I'm looking forward to the next 46 days. I just hope I survive."

GOP reacts to Romney comments

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