The President’s new health care bill does not include a public option, but it does increase the maximum penalty for failure to comply with the mandate to buy health insurance, which rises from 2% to 2.5% of annual income (PDF).

But for months now, polling has shown that a mandate with no public option is an extremely unpopular combination. The annual penalty for failure to comply makes it even more unpopular in swing districts.

I’m uncertain how this is supposed to sway nervous Democrats in the House to vote for the bill. Jon Cohen writes about possible outcomes of the President’s health care summit today, and agrees that the problem is no longer the Senate, but is, instead, the House:

House, by all accounts, is the chamber that worries reformers the most. Centrists and freshmen are nervous about voting for a bill, given the latest poll numbers and rebuke to Democrats in Massachusetts last month. Liberals are less than thrilled about voting for a bill they deem to conservative.

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Will Democrats, particularly in the House, get past their fear and vote for the bill? Really that’s what the summit is all about–convincing nervous Democrats that the Republicans really aren’t interested in compromise and that health care reform, despite the poll numbers, is still a good idea. (Hopefully somebody will mention to nervous Democrats the finding, consistent across polls, that the individual elements of reform remain extremely popular, even if the package as a whole isn’t.)

The Democrats in Republican leaning districts want Republican cover before they’ll vote for anything. The White House knows they’re probably not going to get that, so they at least have to look like they tried. They will try to paint a picture that blames Republican obstructionism for a failure to achieve “bipartisan” support.

With Obama’s own Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, out there telling everyone that Obama’s health care plan is “too liberal,” I can’t imagine how they think that this game plan will result in calming the fears of even one wavering Blue Dog. Raising the mandate penalty just gives more ammunition to the John Shaddegg argument for Republicans to use.

Stu Rothenberg just shifted 28 seats in the “R” direction for the 2010 election. Don’t think nobody noticed.