One of the key messages from House Republicans during their meeting with President Obama yesterday wasn’t about policy; it was about rhetoric. GOP leaders chastised the White House and Democrats in general for saying mean things about Republican plans to privatize Medicare.

And why does the GOP care so much about Democratic rhetoric? Because it’s working.

A new national poll indicates that a majority of Americans don’t like what they’ve heard so far about congressional Republicans’ plans to change Medicare.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, a majority also don’t think the GOP has cooperated enough with President Barack Obama and, for the first time since they won back control of the House last November, the number of Americans who say that Republican control of the chamber is good for the country has dropped below the 50 percent mark.

The poll indicates that 58 percent of the public opposes the Republican plan on Medicare, with 35 percent saying they support the proposal.

What’s striking is the GOP’s failure to persuade any demographic that ending Medicare and replacing it with a privatized voucher scheme is a good idea. Republicans have tried to sell this to seniors, and yet, 74% of seniors oppose the GOP plan.

Here’s the kicker: a majority of self-identified conservatives (54%) oppose the Republican proposal and a plurality of self-identified Republicans (50%) oppose the Republican plan. That’s just embarrassing — after months of public relations efforts, and favorable media coverage about the GOP’s courageousness, the Republican Party hasn’t even persuaded its own supporters.

Though CNN has, for whatever reason, neglected to put the poll’s internals online, the same poll also seems to have found that most Americans want President Obama, and not congressional Republicans, to have more influence over the nation’s direction, and a majority also believe the president, and not congressional Republicans, is taking a responsible approach to bipartisan cooperation.

The significance of this is, the public hates the idea of Medicare privatization so much, the plan may very well be dragging Republicans down in general.

Is it any wonder GOP leaders are pleaded with Obama to stop saying mean things about their proposal?

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.