GOP’S PUBLIC STANDING DETERIORATES…. We talked earlier about the new Washington Post/ABC News poll and the support for the public option as part of health care reform. The news wasn’t good for Republicans: Americans not only support a public plan, but they consider it significantly more important than bipartisanship.

But for the GOP, that’s just the beginning. Karl Rove boasted the other day that Republicans are “winning the health-care debate.” It’s hard to overstate how wrong this is. The Post/ABC poll points to a party moving quickly in the wrong direction.

Overall, 57 percent approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president and 40 percent disapprove…. Despite those mixed reviews on domestic priorities, Obama continues to hold a big political advantage over Republicans.

Poll respondents are evenly divided when asked whether they have confidence in Obama to make the right decisions for the country’s future, but just 19 percent express confidence in the Republicans in Congress to do so. Even among Republicans, only 40 percent express confidence in the GOP congressional leadership to make good choices.

Only 20 percent of adults identify themselves as Republicans, little changed in recent months, but still the lowest single number in Post-ABC polls since 1983.

Looking through the internals, confidence in congressional Republicans to make the right decisions has fallen over the course of the year, and it’s now down to just 19%. To be sure, confidence in congressional Democrats is far from stellar, but it’s nearly double the GOP’s numbers.

But the fact that only 20% of adults self-identify as Republicans is the most striking result. To put the number in perspective, remember that in 1992, Ross Perot and whatever it was his party was called got about 19% of the vote nationwide. Republicans are only slightly stronger now.

It’s far too early to predict with any confidence the electoral consequences of numbers like these. It’s certainly possible that by this time next year, an anti-incumbent attitude will be strong enough to deliver significant gains for the GOP in the midterms.

But at this point, the public isn’t buying what Republicans are selling. President Obama’s support isn’t as strong as it was — though a 57% approval rating is pretty impressive at this point — but the GOP has failed to capitalize. To the contrary, the minority, instead of positioning itself as a serious, credible alternative, is moving backwards.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.