IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION…. The principal negotiators merging the competing Senate health care bills — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Senate HELP Committee’s Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and a small team of White House officials — are being pretty tight lipped about their discussions.

But what everyone else is saying sounds pretty good this afternoon.

As we talked about earlier, Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) believe the bill that will go to the floor will have a public option. Sen. Tom Carper (D) of Delaware, who’s played an active role in exploring compromise alternatives, is hearing the same thing.

After a meeting with Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) discussed the status of the public plan in the Senate health care bill with reporters. Here’s what he said:

“I think at the end of the day there will be a national plan probably put together not by the federal government but by a non-profit board with some seed money from the federal government that states would initially participate in because of lack of affordability. The question is should there be an opportunity for states to opt out later on and if so, within a year, within two years, within three years?”

Again, this is both important and encouraging. If the bill heads to the floor with a public option, it’ll take 60 votes to get it out before there’s a final vote. We now have three relevant senators, who’ve been briefed on the discussions, publicly acknowledging that this now seems likely.

As for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who opposes the public option for bizarre reasons, and doesn’t seem to understand precisely what the public option even is, she told NPR this afternoon that the polls showing strong national support for the idea don’t matter, because Americans are wrong.

“I think if you asked, ‘Do you want a public option but it would force the government to go bankrupt,’ people would say ‘No,’” Landrieu said.

Now, I’ll gladly concede that popularity does not always denote merit. In other words, sometimes polls will show public attitudes pointing in one direction, but that doesn’t make the direction necessarily correct.

But Landrieu’s arguments are getting increasingly incoherent. Yes, if you asked people if they want the government to go bankrupt, chances are pretty good the poll results would be one-sided. But why on earth does Landrieu think a public option would bankrupt the government? Does she realize that the public option is a way to save money?

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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.