Why Stupak Quit

Pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak had a rough year

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Democratic Representative Bart Stupak has capped off his high-profile and turbulent year at the center of the health-care debate by announcing his plan to retire. Stupak became a controversial figure by leading a pack of moderate House Democrats who promised to block the reform bill if it did not include strict anti-abortion provisions. He succeeded to a degree, although the final executive order was much, much softer than the original "Stupak language," which was in the first House bill but later dropped.
  • How He Decided  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports, "Stupak made the decision to retire while attending the Butler-Michigan State game at the Final Four in Indianapolis last weekend, according to an informed source. A series of prominent Democratic leaders made pleas for him to reconsider - including President Obama who called Stupak on Wednesday - but his mind was made up."
  • Tea Party Target  Time's Alex Altman says Stupak was the Tea Party's first scalp. "In the aftermath of the health care vote, Tea Party groups zeroed in on Stupak as one of their primary targets, pouring into his sprawling district for protests and sinking $250,000 into ad buys calling for his ouster."
  • Made Everyone Hate Him  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein shakes his head. "He made himself a villain to liberals when he threatened to kill the Affordable Care Act unless the already-restrictive abortion language was made more restrictive. He made himself a villain to conservatives when he accepted an executive order saying that the abortion language in the bill was intended to be extremely restrictive. And now, after weeks of negative ads and angry letters and shouting phone calls, he's retiring."
  • He Was Doomed Anyway  Liberal blogger Lindsay Beyerstein suspects Stupak would have lost for reelection. "Realistically, Stupak is facing a tough reelection battle in his Michigan district with a primary challenger on the left and a 'tea party' candidate on the right. That and he has no friends. Stupak’s preening and grandstanding made a lot of enemies within the Democratic caucus."
  • Still, He Did The Right Thing  The Guardian's Michael Tomasky sympathizes. "The executive order he agreed to was a bit of a capitulation on his part, and he did the right thing and voted for the bill, and he stood on the floor of the House just before the roll was called and gave a pretty darn excellent speech, during which some yahoo Texas Republican called him a 'baby killer' as you'll remember," he writes. "remember his vote and his speech. He did the right thing knowing the right would put a target on his back.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.