Archeologists digging in a pre-Civil War church cemetery in Washington Park this summer found a few bones beneath geological layers of cigarette butts and broken wine bottles. The movie version would be more exciting.

Oliver Stone would find pictures of Jimmy Hoffa standing on the grassy knoll with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Nicholas Cage would find a treasure map leading to the world's biggest goetta mine.

And in the zombie version, they would find something truly scary: the last remains of the political career of one-and-done Congressman Steve Driehaus.

OK, maybe I've been watching too many movies. But even before the traditional campaign kickoff on Labor Day, Driehaus was one of The Expendables.

Not the action-hero kind. The kind that wears tire-track tattoos from being thrown under a convoy of buses. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last spring that some Democrats would have to sacrifice their seats to pass healthcare reform, she was probably talking about Driehaus.

Republicans could still rain on their own parade and water the parched, wilting hopes of Democrats like Driehaus. But this year, the political forecast calls for brush fires, not showers. And the rematch between Driehaus and Steve Chabot is the hottest bonfire we've got.

On paper, it's two guys named Steve. Both are West Siders. Both Catholics. Both have roots in Price Hill. Both are political soldiers. Both are genuine, likeable, decent family men "” who might as well be opposite terminals on a car battery. They may look like part of the same power system, but wire them up and sparks will fly.

The November Scrum

Driehaus vs. Chabot is a proxy for the whole November scrum. It's Obama vs. Tea Party. Pelosi vs. Bush. John Maynard Keynes vs. Adam Smith. Spend vs. Cut. Liberal vs. Conservative. Stimulus vs. Debt. It's NPR tofu vs. talk radio T-bone. It's "Hope and Change" vs. "We Can't Afford It."

Driehaus voted for Obamacare, Chabot wants to repeal it. Driehaus voted for stimulus "investment," Chabot calls it "waste." Driehaus says he is pro-life, and insists he fought to prevent federal funding of abortions. But Ohio Right to Life endorses Chabot and says Driehaus voted for "the greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade." Driehaus has been workin' on the Democrat railroad. Chabot wants to dynamite the bridge and derail the loco-spending-motive.

Everything Americans have bickered, brawled, caterwauled, disputed, debated, quarreled, quibbled, scuffled, scrapped and squabbled over for the past two years is on the menu in Ohio's First District. And many Cincinnati voters can't wait for a referendum on Obama, Pelosi, the Democratic House and Senate, healthcare reform and the spending spree that took just 18 months to double eight years of debt from President Bush.

Driehaus was one of the lucky freshmen Democrats who rode into office on Obama's slipstream. But if polls are gauges in the political cockpit, the Obama altimeter is spinning backward toward an abrupt appointment with a crater. And parachutes are in short supply.

Four early public polls showed Driehaus trailing Chabot by 10, 12, 14 and 17 points.

Just two years ago, liberals were dancing on tables while their cheerleaders in the media wrote obituaries for the Republican Party. The Democrats got sloppy drunk on 100-proof Old Partisan.

All too familiar

We've seen it before. Republicans still have a headache from hitting the same bottle in 1994, when they took over Congress and began flexing their booze muscles with boasts about closing down the government.

Driehaus doesn't like the comparison. But he admits, "There are some members of our caucus who tend to overreach."

True. I'd say approximately all of them, Driehaus included, who voted for Obamacare and $825 billion in pork-saturated stimulus spending.

Chabot, who served 14 years before being ousted by Driehaus, says, "There's one big difference" between 1994 and 2010. "We had Clinton as president for six more years, with a veto. They have nothing to hold them back. It's like the inmates have taken over the asylum."

Conservatives and an increasing crowd of independents agree: Democrats turned our government into Shutter Island for the fiscally insane.

"I've never seen people so energized," says Rebecca Heimlich, the leader of the Ohio chapter of Americans For Prosperity, a nonprofit advocate for free markets, limited government and fiscal sanity.

Her organization works with the Tea Party movement and sponsors a "November is Coming" bus tour. They have 1.2 million members in 30 states, says Heimlich, a former Clermont County prosecutor and wife of former Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich.

Locally, they ran a radio ad scorching Driehaus votes for "failed economic stimulus, government takeover of health care and job-killing cap and trade" that "are bankrupting our government."

Jury still out?

Driehaus is not impressed. He expects the Tea Party to fizzle. "I think the jury's still out on what impact they will have in a general election."

But Chabot, who supports the Tea Party, says Driehaus is hiding from his own constituents. "He has had virtually no town meetings because there is so much opposition."

Heimlich says, "I think the momentum is building. My concern after healthcare reform passed was that people would feel discouraged and give up. But I haven't seen that at all."

November is not just a mid-term test of Obama. We're about to find out if the Tea Party has come to a full boil. From what I hear, the teapot is steamed enough to scald bark off a tree.

As we all know from college, the freshmen who drop out first are usually the ones who forgot what their folks back home told them not to do. And though freshman Driehaus staunchly defends his big-spending party, his votes are poison to First District West Siders, who know how to stretch a dollar until they rip George Washington's ears off.

In the Rocky sequel of this rematch, Driehaus would get up off the canvas and win in the final round. But there are no special effects in politics.

And Cincinnati is a long way from Hollywood.
Peter Bronson is a contributing editor of Cincy Magazine. He can be reached at