Salena Zito

GRANITE CITY, Ill. – In the shadow of a U.S. Steel plant outside a shuttered Lisa’s Diner, a car garishly decorated in red, white and blue whizzes along Madison Avenue.

It is the only evidence of enthusiasm for U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello’s opponent, Republican Terri Newman, in November’s midterm election.

Democrat Costello is an 11-term congressman whose 12th District encompasses half of southern Illinois. He is one of the few “Stupak 11” members – pro-life House Democrats, led by Michigan’s Bart Stupak, who jeopardized and then saved President Obama’s health-care bill – who isn’t feeling pain for his eventual “yes” vote.

Mayor Ed Hagnauer explains that Costello is more part of the Main Street culture of this city (once known as Six Mile for its proximity to St. Louis) than of Washington.

“Jerry spends a lot of time here, he is tune with our needs and concerns,” Hagnauer said. He described the region as predominantly Catholic, conservative blue-collar Democrats.

Less than a month after the health-care debacle, Stupak announced he would not seek a tenth term in Congress, leaving his followers without cover.

“Stupak’s retirement is something of a mystery,” said House-race analyst Isaac Wood. He theorizes that Stupak realized a moderate had little place in leadership on either side of the aisle.

It’s no exaggeration to say House Democrats face an uphill climb this fall; just last week, a Gallup poll put public confidence in Congress at a ridiculous 11 percent.

Now, as Stupak fades into history, here’s how the rest of his old bloc is faring:

- Rep. Steve Driehaus (Ohio District 1) ran as a pro-life Democrat in 2008 and recently admitted his health-care vote hurts in this heavily Catholic, Cincinnati-based district. Moderate Catholics aren't his only problem; he faces a rematch with former Rep. Steve Chabot, who remains popular and is mounting a strong campaign to reclaim his seat with more cash on hand than the freshman incumbent. Driehaus trails by large margins in polls.

- Rep. Paul Kanjorski (Pa. Dist. 11) sweated out a victory in 2008 over Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, thanks largely to Obama voters in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Combine Barletta’s history of winning Democrats’ votes and Kanjorski’s flip on health care, which killed jobs in the student-loan industry near his district, and you have a clear reason why Barletta leads by an eye-popping 56 percent to 37 percent.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.