TELEGRAPHING THEIR PUNCHES…. The strategy for congressional Republicans isn’t exactly a secret.

Even if a [health care reform] bill ultimately passes, Republicans hope to delay that moment until well into 2010 — when all seats in the House and one-third of those in the Senate will be contested — then make the case to voters that Democrats took their focus off the economy and an unemployment rate above 10%.

Got that? Congressional Republicans are desperate to delay progress on health care reform, while congressional Democrats want to complete work on health care and move onto a jobs bill. If GOP tactics are successful, Democratic efforts on jobs will be delayed.

At which point, Republicans will say, “Why haven’t Democrats done more to address unemployment?”

The offense has told the defense exactly what play it’s about to call, daring them to stop it. If Democrats want to stop the play, it’s within their power to do so.

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.