John Boehner's purchase of an $835,000 condo in an exclusive community in Marco Island, Fla. -- a story broken by Jonathan Strong at Breitbart News -- has increased chatter that the House speaker is planning his exit strategy from Washington when the 113th Congress draws to a close later this year.
According to USA Today, Boehner and his wife bought the condo on Feb. 11, and the speaker told his GOP colleagues about it during a gathering in Sarasota over the weekend. His office quickly sought to downplay the purchase as a sign of anything. "This area of Florida has been the Boehners' family vacation spot for many years, and rather than continue to put money into vacation rentals year after year, they decided to buy a condo," explained spokesman Michael Steel. "Their home is in West Chester, Ohio, and will continue to be."
Message sent. Buying a condo in Florida means nothing about Boehner's future.
But, we couldn't help but dig a little bit deeper given how much we have already written about Boehner's future in Congress -- and what it means for the fate of things like immigration reform in this Congress.
Let's start with this: Boehner has plenty of money to make this purchase even if he wasn't planning to head to the green pastures of the lobbying world in January 2015. According to his most recent financial disclosures, his net worth is between $1.9 and $5.9 million -- making him the 90th most wealthy member of Congress as of 2012. While a nearly million-dollar condo -- assuming he plans, as Steel insists, to keep his home in Ohio -- is a significant investment, it's not even close to a bank-breaker for someone like Boehner.
That said, it's not an insignificant expenditure. Using mortgagecalculator.org (God bless the Internet), if Boehner put 20 percent down and secured a 30-year loan at a 4.33 percent fixed interest rate, the mortgage on his new Florida condo would be $3,317 a month or roughly $40,000 a year. (According to Politico's Jake Sherman, Boehner put $185,000 down and financed the remainder.) If, as Steel suggests, the decision to buy was made out of a desire not to keep throwing money into rentals, Boehner was spending some serious cash on renting.
Politically speaking, the timing of Boehner buying a condo in Florida days after he broke with his conference to push -- and vote for -- a clean debt-ceiling increase is hard to simply dismiss. It could, of course, be simple coincidence. But, it's been our experience that coincidences are few and far between in politics. (Ambitious politician just happens to agree to do a fundraiser in Iowa. Coincidence? Um, no.)
Even if Boehner sided with the conservative bloc of his conference on every issue between now and November, he would likely face a real fight to be renominated as speaker in the 114th Congress given how close he came to being forced to a second ballot in the 113th. (Is there anyone who can argue that Boehner's actions over the past two years have improved his image among the tea party wing of the House GOP?)
Boehner is not only a political pragmatist -- you don't get to be the speaker of the House unless you are -- but also someone with a political resume uniquely suited to understanding when it's time to go. Remember that Boehner was ousted as Republican Conference Chairman by then-Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.) following the 1998 election. This is someone who grasps, at a very personal level, the importance and power of going out on your own terms.
Now, it's worth remembering that this blog wrongly predicted not once but twice that Nancy Pelosi would leave her gig as leader of her party. (I did it once after Democrats lost the House in the 2010 election and then again after the 2012 election.) A leader's decision of when to step aside is deeply personal and, as such, difficult for the likes of political reporters and handicappers to predict. Still, context always matter in politics. And the context of Boehner's condo purchase seems to send a clear signal that he is making plans for what's next -- whether that's next year or in a few (more) years.