HEALTH CARE POLL SEVERELY UNDERCUTS GOP MESSAGE…. The good news for Republicans in the new Associated Press poll is that the smear campaign against health care reform remains largely effective — Americans don’t necessarily know what it’s in the Affordable Care Act, but a majority of them still don’t like it.

The bad news is public attitudes still aren’t close to where the right wants them to be.

First it was President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul that divided the nation. Now it’s the Republican cry for repeal.

An Associated Press-GfK poll found likely voters evenly split on whether the law should be scrapped or retooled to make even bigger changes in the way Americans get their health care.

Tea party enthusiasm for repeal has failed to catch on with other groups, the poll found, which may be a problem for Republicans vowing to strike down Obama’s signature accomplishment if they gain control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.

As far as conservatives go, the line is pretty straightforward: the new health care law is unpopular because Americans are uncomfortable with how sweeping it is and how far it goes. It’s this sentiment, they assume, that will fuel Republicans’ “repeal” push.

But their assumptions are still wrong. In the AP poll, 37% adopt the far-right line and prefer a full repeal, but a nearly identical number, 36%, want revisions to the Affordable Care Act so that it goes even further. These 36% aren’t necessarily thrilled with the new law, but from their perspective, they want the reforms to be more expansive, not less.

And if I had to guess, of the 37% who want a full repeal, that number would drop considerably if these folks knew what the consequences would be.

I wonder what the discourse would be like if equal attention were paid to those who want even more ambitious health care reforms, as compared to those who think the Affordable Care Act is some sort of secret communist plot.

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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.