steve_driehaus2_120The whole purpose of the Stupak amendment was to give Democrats in close districts the ability to point to their health care vote and say “see, I know it’s a giant bailout for Aetna and PhRMA, but it pisses off liberals and it’s a huge setback for abortion rights.” And that’s exactly what Steve Driehaus did after his November vote:

It didn’t take 48 hours after Steve Driehaus, D-West Price Hill, voted for a health-care reform bill in the House of Representatives on Saturday night for political opponents to use the vote against him in what’s expected to be a tough November 2010 re-election bid.

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“I had drawn a line in the sand early on about not spending federal dollars on abortions,” he added. “Look, this is a competitive district. It will remain a competitive district. I think the voters will face a choice. Do they want to go back to where we were or do they want to move forward?”

They thought they could take a page from the Republican playbook: rip off the country while they keep the base happy by throwing them red meat on social issues. The trouble is, Driehaus is a Democrat. It was the wrong base.

Polling in Vic Snyder’s district (AR-02) and Steve Driehaus’s district (OH-01) should have shown that they were close. Both districts were rated “tossups” by Cook’s Political report. Instead, polls by SurveyUSA for FDL showed both Driehaus and Snyder trailing 17 points to their Republican opponents. Snyder and Driehaus voted for the Stupak amendment. It didn’t seem to provide much insulation from the prevailing tide of sentiment in their districts against the the health care bill.

This weekend, on the day after the poll was released, Driehaus decided to double down on Stupak and hand control of his vote over to the Catholic bishops:

“I would certainly hope the (abortion) language adopted would also allow the Catholic Bishops to support the legislation as well,” Driehaus said.

For the life of me, I can’t understand how this is Driehaus’s takeaway. I certainly hope Martha Coakley wins in Massachusetts, her opponent is a neanderthal. But it’s ironic that as a pro-choice woman, one of the first things she’ll have to do is cast a vote for a bill that sets womens’ reproductive rights back a generation as the price of bailing out the insurance companies. Many Democrats have cited this fact for their lack of enthusiasm about the Coakley race, but that’s not her fault. That’s the fault of Steve Driehaus, Bart Stupak and the geniuses who thought they could jam this on the Democratic base as a way to get conservative buy-in for their vote on a bill forcing Americans to pay almost as much as they do in federal taxes to private insurance companies. They thought that if they pissed of liberals, nobody would notice that these companies have protected monopolies, no regulation and no cost controls. But it didn’t work.

Every poll imaginable says that Tuesday’s election will be about turnout, and Coakley is suffering from an enthusiasm gap:

Brown’s voters continue to be much more enthusiastic than Coakley’s. 80% of his say they’re ‘very excited’ about voting Tuesday while only 60% of hers express that sentiment.

Driehaus beat Chabot by roughly 15,000 votes in the last election. And now Driehaus is hoping to inspire Catholics in the district with his strong anti-abortion stance, but Catholics across the country are pretty close to the general public on the issue. Moreover, the independents Driehaus seems anxious to woo track with Democrats on the issue (59% of both think abortion should be all- or mostly legal).

The underlying assumption that Driehaus is embracing is that Democrats will be so invested in his reelection that he can woo Republicans who will never vote for anyone with a “D” next to their name by demagoguing the abortion issue, and that Democrats will just show up for him no matter what. But this is just not going to be an “abortion” election. According to a National Journal/Heartland Monitor poll, that isn’t what voters care about right now:

HotlinePoll

With a poll of likely voters showing Driehaus 17 points down to his Republican opponent, there appears to be a more important takeaway: the Democrats have 10 months before the 2010 election to stand up to the banks, insurance and pharmaceutical companies and show that they really can be the party of reform. If he wants to save his seat, Driehaus should get in front of that parade and insist that the mandate and penalties come out of the bill — something 70% of the people in his district think is “unfair.” Because that is something that progressive Democrats and libertarian Republicans agree on.