Boehner's big choice

And so, with a little more than a year left in his current term, the nation’s 53rd speaker faces a choice: He can spend the next year much like the last, trying to reconcile the rambunctious tea-party wing of his conference with more-moderate Republicans in a stand against Democrats in the Senate and the White House. Or, he can work with House Democrats and a loose coalition of roughly 30 Republicans who have teamed in the last year to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, supply funding for victims of Hurricane Sandy, and end the government shutdown.

“History generally looks kindly upon those individuals who either stood outside the pack and displayed foresight and courage, or those with a knack for compromise and getting the job done,” said political pollster and author John Zogby. “It is hard to remember much written about those who simply kept their job.”

He added: “If a portrait in the hall and a wiki stating his title are sufficient, so be it.”

Boehner’s current strategy has brought more conflict than comity in recent months, but it has earned him a measure of respect within his conference—especially among freshman and sophomore conservatives—even as Republicans have been wounded in nationwide polls.

Yet there are also those who say he is squandering his leadership position in the face of enormous crisis, too often handcuffed by his own party to pursue compromise and legitimate legislative achievements.