John Boehner, the product of a tough upbringing in America's heartland, will bring a natural mistrust of big government when he takes over as speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
The conservative Republican -- a former small businessman who worked his way through college as a janitor -- will be in a position to slam the brakes on President Barack Obama's largely liberal agenda, push spending cuts and shake up Washington.
Having led Republicans to victory over Obama's Democrats in the November congressional elections, Boehner, 61, will be formally chosen by his colleagues as House speaker shortly after the new 112th Congress convenes at noon.
The son of a bar owner, Boehner used to share a bathroom with 11 siblings at their childhood home in Ohio. He will now become second in the line of succession to the presidency, behind only Vice President Joe Biden.
Boehner's Republicans want to cut $100 billion in government spending this year and repeal Obama's healthcare reform, which they see as intrusion of government into people's lives.
While some of that agenda seems aimed at hindering Obama wherever possible and preventing his re-election in 2012, Boehner's politics often appear heartfelt.
"I started out mopping floors, waiting tables, and tending bar at my dad's tavern. I put myself through school working odd jobs and night shifts," Boehner said last year.
"I poured my heart and soul into a small business. And when I saw how out-of-touch Washington had become with the core values of this great nation, I put my name forward and ran for office," he said.
Boehner was first elected to the House in 1990 after heading a plastics company and serving six years in the Ohio state legislature.
He may well shed a few tears on Wednesday when he takes the gavel from the current speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi. He has cried on several occasions in public, including on election night in November when he recalled his struggles.
LOW KEY START
He will attend a church service with his family on Wednesday to mark his new role but, apart from making his maiden speech as speaker, Boehner plans to keep the day low-key as a deliberate show of austerity.
Wall Street, which has contributed heavily to Boehner and opposes much of Obama's agenda, has mostly welcomed the Republicans taking the House. But Democrats still control the Senate and can block many Republican moves.
Boehner is seen as pro-business, personable and resilient.
"The Street is starved for someone with real life experience in Washington and John Boehner fits it to the 'T,'" said Chris Krueger of Capital Concept, a private firm that tracks Washington for institutional investors.
During the 2010 campaign, Boehner often talked with pride about crafting a bipartisan deal in 2001 to pass a landmark bill, "No Child Left Behind," to upgrade American education.
But questions remain about whether Boehner is a partisan warrior unwilling to work with Obama to shrink the $1.3 trillion budget deficit and create jobs.
The two men cooperated to forge a tax deal that Congress passed last month, but many contentious economic issues like the deficit and debt ceiling lie ahead.
"Once John Boehner's sworn in as speaker, he'll have a responsibility to govern. You just can't stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower," Obama said.
Boehner says he will seek common ground with Obama but will not compromise his conservative principles.
"When you say the word 'compromise,' a lot of Americans look up and go, "Uh-oh, they're gonna sell me out,'" Boehner said. "So finding common ground, I think, makes more sense."
He reached out to the Tea Party movement, a loose coalition of groups nationwide that has energized Republicans while being critical of both parties for what they see as too much government.
Chris Littleton, a Tea Party leader in Boehner's congressional district, said he first met with the Republican leader in 2009 and blasted him and other Republicans for big spending and federal intrusion during the Bush administration.
"We hit him pretty hard," Littleton recalled. "He admitted mistakes. He said, 'We lost our way.' He's right. They did."