New tea party ad: It's time for us to retire Bart Stupak

Don’t look now but he might beat them to the punch.

Stupak to call it quits? With just a few days to go before the end of this recess, House Democrats are cautiously optimistic that they could get through it without a single retirement announcement. That said, there is still a concern that some important incumbents in districts that they are uniquely suited could call it quits. At the top of the concern list this week: Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak. The Democrat best known this year as the Democrat who delivered the winning margin of votes for the president’s health-care reform bill is said to be simply exhausted. The criticism he received — first from the left, and then from the right — has worn him and his family out. And if he had to make the decision now, he’d probably NOT run. As of this writing, a bunch of senior Democrats (many of the same ones who twisted his arm on the health care vote) are trying to talk him into running. The filing deadline in Michigan is still a month away, but veterans of that state’s politics are skeptical anyone other than Stupak can hold that district in this political climate.

He’s an obvious tea-party target: He’s vulnerable, his bloc was the deciding factor in passing a bill they despise (Stupak claims it wasn’t), and his media profile is now sufficiently high that they’ll get some derivative buzz from attacking him. But even so, for a group that’s done an admirable job staying focused on fiscal responsibility and away from contentious social issues, it’s odd to find them singling out a guy who caved on pro-life protection for his “betrayal.” He didn’t betray anyone on the larger issue of whether O-Care should be passed: He was always plain about his support for a new federal medical entitlement, provided that they added some statutory language to block funds for abortion. I get the point of making his crumble on that point a centerpiece of the campaign in a socially conservative district, but still — it’s a tiny bit of mission creep for tea partiers, albeit veiled here by omitting the key word.

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