‘BRING A CHICKEN TO THE DOCTOR’…. Sue Lowden (R), the leading Republican Senate candidate in Nevada, recently articulated her vision of how the American health care system should work. At a local candidate forum, Lowden, a former state senator and chair of the Nevada Republican Party, encouraged Nevadans to “go ahead and barter with your doctor.” It would, she insisted, “get get prices down in a hurry.”

I assumed that Lowden misspoke, and meant to say “bargain,” not “barter,” though the notion of bargaining with medical professionals is itself foolish. But she couldn’t have meant “barter,” since that’s ridiculous.

I stand corrected. Lowden appeared on a Nevada news program earlier this week, and doubled down on her notion of a more effective system.

“I’m telling you that this works,” the Republican candidate explained. “You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor. They would say, ‘I’ll paint your house.’ I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.”

This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard from a candidate for statewide office. If there wasn’t a video, I might not even believe it. According to nearly every recent poll, Lowden is the clear favorite to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in November, but that was before she started talking about trading livestock for medical care. It’s a permanent credibility-killer. It’s one thing to be a confused, far-right candidate. It’s another to be a laughingstock.

Remember, the health care debate lasted a very long time. Lowden, who has been running for the Senate for nearly as long, has had plenty of time to carefully craft her message on health care policy. This is what she’s come up with. Better yet, after becoming the subject of ridicule last week, Lowden had a chance to clarify this into a position that’s less preposterous. Instead, she made it worse.

I’m trying to imagine how Lowden thinks this should work. Treating a mundane ailment — say, a sore throat — can cost a chicken. But how, exactly, does she imagine families pay for more serious treatments? What should Nevadans expect to bring to the doctor in exchange for an MRI exam? Or an emergency appendectomy? Or chemotherapy? Should the senior citizen who just had hip-replacement surgery offer to start painting the doctor’s house?

If Dems are smart, they’ll start taking this national — ask every Republican candidate in the country whether they agree with Sue Lowden’s “bring a chicken to the doctor” health care plan.

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.