Republicans and the Axis

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Jonathan Bernstein on whether Republicans are really going to base this fall’s campaign on repeal of healthcare reform:

Will they explicitly call for repeal? My guess is [they] will feel heavy pressure (self-inflicted or otherwise) to follow whatever Rush & Co. say, and there’s certainly competition among the talk show hosts to be the most rejectionist at all. And in a campaign context, it’s even easier to call for repeal, followed by passing simple common sense steps to eliminate pre-existing conditions, etc. than it was in a legislative context; there’s no threat of them having to submit an actual proposal, or having it scored by CBO. Certainly, Republican activists and primary voters believe that the new law is incredibly unpopular (and will probably continue to believe that regardless of polling), and so they will not believe that a “repeal” position is dangerous in a general election. So, all in all, I do think the odds are good that many GOP candidates will run on repeal in 2010, and probably in the 2012 presidential nomination process as well.

I pretty much agree. Not only are Republicans genuinely opposed to the bill, but Jonathan is right about the effect of Fox and talk radio egging them on. And I wouldn’t be surprised if that produces a backlash. It’s one thing to campaign against the bill — it might even be a winning strategy among right and center-right voters — but the Drudge/Fox/Rush axis is going to force conservative candidates into ever shriller and more baroque denunciations (see, for example, Mitt Romney claiming that “President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation”), and that might not wear so well even out in the fabled heartland. That’s especially true when it turns out that the fabric of the nation doesn’t collapse the way it was supposed to on the day after the bill was signed.

Generally speaking, the D/F/R axis isn’t that visible outside its direct audience. That’s a good thing for Republicans since the stuff they spout really doesn’t go over well with anyone outside the true believer base. But if Republican candidates feel like they have to toe the axis line, suddenly it’s going to be a lot more visible — and it might turn off a lot of people. We’ll see.

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