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Boehner: ‘There’s not that big a difference’ between tea party and GOP

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) (AP)

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) sought to erase suggestions Tuesday of an ongoing divide between traditional Republican Party members and tea party-backed insurgent candidates as voters head to the polls to cast ballots in several states with contested GOP primaries.

"I think the tea party has brought great energy to our political process," he said in response to a question about Tuesday's primaries, adding that he expects many Republican candidates will continue to adopt the tea party mantle in the future. But he disputed suggestions of a rift between traditional Republicans and upstart tea party-backed candidates.

"There’s not that big a difference between what you call the tea party and your average conservative Republican," he said. "We're against Obamacare, we think taxes are too high, we think government is too big. I wouldn't continue to sing that same song."

The speaker made his comments alongside House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who faces a tea party-inspired candidate in a primary today. Shuster plans to be on the House floor today as lawmakers vote to approve a new water projects bill and then make the three-hour drive back to his district to see the primary election results as they come in.

Boehner's comments on the GOP divide came as the National Republican Congressional Committee — the group responsible for electing more House Republicans — announced its "Drive to 245," or a new goal of picking up an additional 12 seats in the midterm elections.

"Just remember, it's a drive to 245," Boehner said in response to questions about the new campaign. "It's not like we're trying to set a number but we're trying to set a goal to help our members, frankly, provide the kind of help that we need from them and from our supporters to go out there and gain seats. We're going to have — we're going to have some real opportunities this fall. But we've got to raise the cash in order to get that done. We've got a lot of hard work in order to try to get there. But I think it's a step in the right direction."