GOP ‘INCREASINGLY WORRIED’ ABOUT REPEAL…. They can’t say they weren’t warned.

Top Republicans are increasingly worried that GOP candidates this fall might be burned by a fire that’s roaring through the conservative base: demand for the repeal of President Barack Obama’s new health care law.

It’s fine to criticize the health law and the way Democrats pushed it through Congress without a single GOP vote, these party leaders say. But focusing on its outright repeal carries two big risks.

Repeal is politically and legally unlikely, and grass-roots activists may feel disillusioned by a failed crusade. More important, say strategists from both parties, a fiercely repeal-the-bill stance might prove far less popular in a general election than in a conservative-dominated GOP primary, especially in states such as Illinois and California.

Democrats are counting on that scenario.

How antsy are Republicans? Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the NRSC, issued a new memo, called, “Moving Forward,” to his candidates yesterday. The point was to offer a rhetorical blueprint on health care to Republicans running for the Senate this year.

The memo mentions the word “repeal” only once, in passing, and makes no effort to encourage GOP candidates to run on a repeal platform.

It’s not exactly a mystery why — repeal is an electoral loser. If Cornyn & Co. thought the demands from the right-wing base were sensible and likely to produce victories at the ballot box, they’d quickly embrace the line Republican voters want to hear. They haven’t because they know better, and want to win.

Thus, top Republicans are “increasingly worried.” We saw a great example of this yesterday with Rep. Mark Kirk (R), an increasingly-conservative Senate candidate in Illinois. Kirk already signed a pledge, promising the right to pursue a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but when pressed on whether he intends to stick to it, Kirk suddenly got shy.

On the list of campaign angles Democrats are anxious to talk about in the fall, this ranks pretty high.

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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.