FALLING IN THE REPEAL TRAP?…. Democrats really seem to hope that Republicans will not only attack health care reform in the 2010 elections, but will demand a full repeal of the legislation. To the Dems’ delight, the GOP seems willing to play along.

Republicans candidates must run on repealing Democrats’ healthcare reform bill in 2010, one of their top House members said Wednesday night.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, encouraged candidates to run on full-scale repeal of health reform, which he conceded was likely to pass.

“As Republicans present the nation with an alternative in 2010, our message on healthcare cannot be: ‘We can fix and reform this bill,’ ” Ryan said at a lecture in Washington organized by the Michigan-based conservative Hillsdale College. “Our message must be: ‘We will repeal and replace this government takeover masked as healthcare reform.’”

Ryan’s comments coincide with the right-wing Club for Growth launching a “Repeal It!” campaign, which includes urging Republican congressional candidates to sign a pledge vowing to “sponsor and support” legislation to “repeal” the reform plan.

This is, to be sure, what the GOP’s far-right base demands. Last month, Newt Gingrich said on “Meet the Press” that “every Republican in 2010 and 2012 will run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill.” The sentiment has been echoed on right-wing blogs and talk radio.

It’s exactly what Democrats are hoping for.

Remember, while several provisions of the health care reform initiative wouldn’t kick in until 2014, some really popular measures would kick in almost immediately. Consumers would have all kinds of new protections, including a ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, the elimination of rescissions, and a ban on annual or lifetime caps.

And that’s exactly why the aggressive repeal push from Republican activists and the Tea Party crowd offers Dems an important opportunity. Democratic leaders would love nothing more than to be able to tell voters next year, “A vote for a Republican is a vote to let insurance companies screw over American families. Know those new protections that just became law? Republicans will take them away unless you vote Democratic.”

Some GOP candidates are willing to back a partial repeal, in part because they know parts of the package are popular, and in part because they realize that total repeal is practically impossible. But for the right-wing base, partial isn’t good enough. As Josh Marshall noted recently, “After all, if it’s really the end of the universe, America and Apple Pie, as Republicans have been suggesting, it’s hard to say you just want to tinker at the margins.”

It puts Republican candidates in a box. Democrats are going to ask, “Are you really going to fight to repeal protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions?” If Republicans say “no,” they alienate the GOP activists who will settle for nothing but a full repeal. If Republicans say “yes,” they alienate the mainstream electorate.

It’s why Dems seem only too pleased today to highlight Paul Ryan’s and the Club for Growth’s latest efforts. As far as Democrats are concerned, there’s a repeal trap, and the GOP is going to fall into it.

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.