AXELROD TAUNTS GOP: ‘MAKE MY DAY’…. When it comes to health care reform, Democrats are understandably nervous about getting the job done. They’re concerned about securing 216 votes in the House; they’re concerned about completing the reconciliation budget fix; and they’re concerned about the calendar.

The one thing Dems don’t seem concerned about is what Republicans are going to do with the issue in the midterm elections, if/when the health bill passes. Consider this line from David Axelrod on “Meet the Press” yesterday:

“[I]f the Republican Party wants to go out and say to that child who now has insurance or say to that small business that will get tax credits this year, if he signs the bill, to help their employees get, get health care, if they want to say to them, ‘You know what? We’re actually going to take that away from you. We don’t think that’s such a good idea,’ I say let’s have that fight. Make my day.

“I’m ready to have that, and every member of Congress ought to be willing to have that debate as well.”

Part of this quote is the emphasis on what happens “this year.” This has been a key talking point from the White House of late, and it’s focused not on the public at large, but at Democratic lawmakers in particular. It’s a subtle reminder: if congressional Dems get this done, they’ll have popular reform measures to point to during their re-election campaigns.

The other point is less subtle. The White House thinks it’s playing a winning hand, and is practically praying Republicans run on a “repeal” platform.

As we’ve been talking about, the goal is to put 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? Are you really going to take coverage away from 30 million middle-class Americans? Are you really going to take away breaks for small businesses?” 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 precisely why even GOP leaders hesitate when pressed on whether repeal would be a top Republican priority.

Axelrod & Co. perceive this hesitation as a GOP weakness, and for Dems hoping to go on the offensive for a change, this looks like an opportunity.

Of course, none of this matters if Democrats don’t pass the bill. Should be an interesting week.

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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.