DOUBLING DOWN ON A BAD BET…. Early on in the health care process, Republican lawmakers took a big risk: rather than work with the White House on a bill, the GOP would reflexively oppose everything, including their own ideas, in the hopes of killing the larger initiative. The gamble didn’t pay off, and health care reform is now law.

Less than eight months before the midterms, Republicans are placing another risky bet, this time gambling that repeal will be an electoral winner.

The GOP’s candidate for Senate in Ohio, former Congressman Rob Portman, backs repeal of the reform proposal Obama just signed into law moments ago, his spokesperson confirms to me. Asked if he backed repeal, the spokesperson, Jessica Towhey, replied: “Yes.” […]

Most of the other top GOP Senate candidates have come out for repeal, something that leading conservatives have been pushing for. The DSCC has been demanding that GOPers say whether they’re for repeal, so not surprisingly, DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz pounced.

“If Rob Portman is going to pledge to repeal health care reform which will have afforded coverage to 1.4 million Ohioans, eliminated the doughnut hole for seniors, offered tax credits to small businesses, lowered the deficit, and ended appalling insurance practices — then good luck to him,” Schultz emailed.

Portman has always struck me as a transparently silly candidate for statewide office. We’re talking about a guy who served as George W. Bush’s budget director at a time when the budget became something of a laughingstock. He should be running for the hills, not for the Senate.

Nevertheless, Portman’s “repeal” push is consistent with the new, standard GOP line. Two of Congress’ nuttiest members — Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) — have already said, separately, that they’ll introduce repeal legislation soon. Dozens of GOP candidates, including presidential aspirants, are rushing to embrace the same line, following the dictates of right-wing activists.

Democrats can hardly believe how lucky they are.

Lee Fang noted this morning that some fairly prominent GOP voices — former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Rudy Giuliani, for example — are suggesting that demanding a full repeal is excessive.

But it’s apparently too late. “Repeal” is practically the official response of the Republican Party whenever the new health care reform law comes up in any context.

Democrats — from the White House to the DNC to the DCCC — are practically taunting Republicans, begging to keep pursuing this. After all, as the president reminded us again this morning, “a host of desperately needed reforms will take effect right away,” including tax credits to about 4 million small businesses, protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, restrictions on rescissions, eliminations on lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits, free preventive care, and a new benefit that allows young adults to able to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26 years old.

Republicans want to base much of their election-year strategy on eliminating all of these? Yeah, good luck with that.

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.

Dems have set a repeal trap, and Republicans are inexplicably rushing to get caught.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.