THE KIND OF VOTE TO BUILD AN ELECTION AROUND…. Yesterday, a week after the Senate acted, the House approved a state-aid jobs bill, which President Obama signed into law last night. This is generating a fair amount of attention — the prospect of hundreds of thousands of job losses right now, including as many as 160,000 school teachers, is bound to raise eyebrows — but the scope of this single bill may not be fully appreciated just yet.

The public is probably pretty accustomed to Republican lawmakers balking at every piece of legislation, and this jobs bill fit into the larger pattern — 98.8% of House Republicans opposed the measure, as did 95% of Senate Republicans.

And while it’s relatively easy for the GOP to spin near-unanimous opposition to contentious measures like health care reform and fixing a broken student loan system, the votes on the state-aid package are far harder for the public to stomach. We’re talking about a common-sense package — which lowered, not raised, the deficit — to save middle-class jobs. Voters can be fickle and unpredictable at times, but most folks tend to like school teachers, firefighters, and police officers.

For reasons that are hard to explain, congressional Republicans labeled them “special interests,” unworthy of rescue. The same GOP leaders who concluded that Wall Street deserved a bailout at a time of crisis, decided teachers and cops didn’t.

Digby noted yesterday, “I do hope the Democrats are paying close attention to this because it might just save their bacon if they play their cards right.”

I’m telling you, this is where the vulnerable underbelly of their “just say no” campaign. They are voting against nice, white, suburban middle class Americans this time (along with nice brown and black suburban middle class Americans) with this crusade. And going after teachers, cops and firefighters is a very, very dangerous thing to do. And as I wrote before, the Democrats should throw it right in their face.

If they don’t, they’re missing an opportunity.

Note that House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) was asked on ABC yesterday how his party would have saved these thousands of jobs, including 3,600 in his home state of Indiana. Pence didn’t answer, because he couldn’t — the Republican plan was to let those jobs disappear, and then blame President Obama when the economy got worse. (It’s the same with the rescue of the American auto industry — the GOP plan wasn’t to save it in some other way; the GOP plan was to let it die.)

The campaign ads seem to write themselves in a situation like this. Indeed, this is a debate to build an election around — with a struggling economy, Democrats proposed a fiscally-responsible plan to save hundreds of thousands of jobs, specifically helping our local schools. Republicans said we can afford tax cuts for billionaires, but not teachers’ jobs.

It’s not every day the two parties’ approaches to government get spelled out so clearly, giving the public a stark choice between two very different ideologies.

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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.