RUNNING AGAINST REPEAL…. When the Affordable Care Act became law, many of us envisioned a scenario in which proponents could go on the offensive against Republican opponents. I called it “the repeal trap” — GOP candidates who support repealing health care reform necessarily want to do some very unpopular things.

Given the polls and the larger climate, nearly all Dems chose a different course, and are downplaying the landmark health care breakthrough. The trap was available, but Democrats were reluctant to set it.

But not all Dems. Rep. Scott Murphy (D), in a tough race in eastern New York, launched a new ad this week, going after his Republican challenger for supporting repeal.

“Time for a reality check,” the voice-over tells viewers. “Chris Gibson wants to repeal the health care law. Chris Gibson would let insurance companies go back to denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. He would let them restore lifetime limits on coverage. Chris Gibson would eliminate mandatory coverage for preventive care like mammograms and colon screenings. And seniors would pay more for prescription drugs.”

All of this happens to be true, and it’s the part of the GOP’s repeal message that gets lost in the shuffle — the Affordable Care Act isn’t popular, but the parts that make up the Affordable Care Act are very popular.

When Republicans endorse repeal, they’re necessarily taking a stand in support of a specific agenda — discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, higher taxes on small businesses, tens of millions of Americans losing access to coverage, re-imposition of lifetime caps and rescission rules, and a Medicare prescription drug donut hole.

It’s gone almost entirely overlooked this campaign season, but this is the Republican approach to health care policy 2011. It doesn’t even require hyperbole or half-truths — this is what repeal means. This is the GOP plan.

And it’s the kind of plan that Americans won’t, and don’t, like.

It’s obviously too late to change major campaign strategies, but I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if national Dems started pushing this message months ago.

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.