Discomfort with the angry mob

DISCOMFORT WITH THE ANGRY MOB…. We talked yesterday about a broad, new Research 2000 poll, commissioned by Markos Moulitsas, gauging the attitudes of rank-and-file Republicans nationwide. The results were discouraging.

A plurality of rank-and-file Republicans wants to see President Obama impeached. More than a third of self-identified Republicans believe he wasn’t born in the United States. A 63% majority is convinced the president is a socialist, about a fourth believe he wants terrorists to be successful, and about a third think Obama is a racist who hates white people.

One of the lingering questions is whether these extreme beliefs will push more reasonable voters away from the GOP.

“This shows a huge vulnerability for Republicans,” says Jef Pollock, a veteran pollster and Democratic strategist working for Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) — who was forced to bolt from the GOP after conservative Pat Toomey attacked him from the right.

“Independents, who are particularly disinclined toward any kind of partisan rhetoric, are going to be turned off when they hear Republicans say stuff like this, which is patently crazy,” Pollock said.

The report added that Republican leaders concede “privately” that “the extremity of the base, and a hard-to-harness populist tea party movement, could give deeply wounded Democrats new life.”

That’s certainly possible. The American mainstream — which not too long ago elected President Obama and large Democratic majorities — is no doubt deeply unsatisfied with the economy and the pace of change in Washington, but it’s unlikely to gravitate towards right-wing extremism and bizarre Republican ideas like impeaching the president. The poll points to a GOP base that’s fallen off a right-wing cliff.

But the problem with Democrats counting on this to help their electoral fortunes is that it takes a fairly high level of political knowledge. Those who are engaged in current events — folks like you — can see Republicans moving further and further from the mainstream, and perhaps find the trend offensive. But the only way to capitalize on Republicans becoming the “party of crazy” is for Americans to realize this has happened.

Given the “megaphone gap,” it would take considerable effort on Dems’ part to make this a key campaign narrative this year. Something to keep an eye on.

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Steve Benen

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.