The handling of the issue offers a hint of Obama’s approach to governing and campaigning in 2012: When confronted with a position close to his heart — and dear to the base — Obama is increasingly inclined to side with people who will vote for him even if it means enraging those who might, but probably won’t, vote for him.

“Who are we going to really lose over this? Ron Paul voters?” asked a senior aide to a Senate Democrat, who thinks the administration should have handled the situation more quietly by punting a decision until after Election Day. “Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. … Catholics who don’t believe in condoms aren’t going to vote for Barack Obama anyway. Let’s get real.”…

Yet most damaging to Obama was a scathing Washington Post column on Monday by liberal Catholic E.J. Dionne, typically an ally, who accused the president of throwing “his progressive Catholic allies under the bus” while empowering “those inside the Church who had originally sought to derail the health care law.”…

“The Catholic vote is in jeopardy here if the president forces Catholic institutions to pay for contraception,” Kristen Day , executive director of Democrats for Life of America, told POLITICO Pro late last year.