WILL VOTERS RESPOND TO A PRO-GRIDLOCK MESSAGE?…. As Democratic strategists continue to push various campaign narratives to undercut Republicans (“Party of No,” “Bush Republicans,” “BP Republicans”), the congressional minority has a few ideas of its own.

GOP leaders are expanding their calls for repeal of the new health care law into a broader campaign theme that electing Republicans will provide the “check and balance” needed to parry Democrats and the Obama administration on an array of topics, with few specifics attached. […]

Republicans hope to make the case to independent voters in particular that casting a ballot for the GOP is the way to restore balance and rein in Washington.

Funny, these folks didn’t seem to think “checks and balances” were necessary when there was a Republican Congress and Republican White House through most of the Bush/Cheney era.

Nevertheless, if this seems vaguely familiar, it’s because John McCain’s (R) presidential campaign tried the same line two years ago — only at that point, he said voters should elect a Republican president to serve as a check against the Democratic Congress. The key, the Republican ticket said at the time was to “market divided government more directly … as part of a summation targeted at undecided independents.”

When Barack Obama won the highest popular vote margin for a non-incumbent in more than a half-century, it seemed clear McCain’s gambit didn’t work especially well. Maybe it’ll find more favor in 2010, but I continue to find the argument odd.

For one thing, it’s not as if Congress has become some kind of rubber stamp for the Obama administration. The president has achieved some amazing legislative breakthroughs in the last year and a half, but none of the successes has been easy.

For another, what the GOP argument is based on, in effect, is a pro-gridlock message. Republicans are saying people should vote for them, not because they’re right, but because they’d make governing in Washington that much more difficult.

The argument, in a nutshell, is: “Vote GOP so Washington can become considerably more dysfunctional and achieve far less. If you like partisan spats, government shutdowns, pointless investigations, and a federal system paralyzed by ideological piques, you’ll love what happens when there’s a Democratic president and a Republican Congress.”

As things currently stand, the federal lawmaking process already struggles badly to vote on legislation, staff the executive branch, fill the federal judiciary, and approve necessary treaties. The new Republican line hopes voters will want to actively make matters much worse.

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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.