The GOP doesn’t want to hear McInturff’s good advice

THE GOP DOESN’T WANT TO HEAR MCINTURFF’S GOOD ADVICE…. Republican pollster Bill McInturff, a partner of Public Opinion Strategies, believes a fair number of Americans are starting to notice some of the popular benefits of the Affordable Care Act. His advice to his party, then, is to move away from promises of a wholesale repeal, and move towards promises about getting rid of the unpopular stuff*.

“If you’re for repeal and replace, it means you have to say that every single element of health care is something you disagree with, or at least allows your opponent to characterize your position that way. That seems to me to not make much sense.

“Number two, people are very conscious that we fought for a year about this. And so … telling people that we’re going to start totally from scratch and do it again, there’s a certain kind of weariness about the process.”

Imagine that. You meant to tell me that, come February, Americans don’t want to hear Congress announce, “All right everyone, let’s debate a national health care plan all over again”? What a surprise.

Of course, there’s a catch. As Jon Chait noted, “I don’t think the GOP’s activist base is going to let the party follow [McInturff’s] advice.”

Agreed. In fact, it’s one of the aspects of the Republican agenda that I find most amusing. If the midterms go as well as expected for the GOP, Republicans will reach a point early next year at which they have two competing constituencies:

(1) a party base that considers repealing every letter of the Affordable Care Act to be at the top of its priority list;

(2) an American mainstream that would rather jump out the window than deal with months of political wrangling over health care policy.

The first group expects enthusiastic follow-through, and wouldn’t mind a government shutdown over this. The second group would very likely be extremely unhappy with this outcome.

In context, McInturff may be talking more about this year’s campaign rhetoric than next year’s governing rhetoric. But once the elections are over, the general advice is equally sound — Republicans are already viewed unfavorably and have unpopular agenda. Do they annoy the mainstream by starting another fight over health care, vowing to repeal popular policy provisions? Or do they infuriate the base which has been misled into thinking the Affordable Care Act is evil?

* Postcript: McInturff is a pollster, not a policy analyst, but it’s worth emphasizing that taking out the unpopular parts of the ACA makes the popular parts ineffective. Promising voters they can have all the stuff they want, with no costs to anyone, may work well in a poll, but not in reality.