by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

Matt Continetti's assertion that " . . . if Republicans in the 112th Congress spent the next two years doing nothing but debating the health care law, beginning to dismantle it, and offering alternatives, they would have real momentum heading into the 2012 election" is dead wrong.

A fairly conservative republican lawyer in my office, who lives in Stafford Virginia, and who voted for Obama in 2008 (the first time she had ever voted for a Democrat for any local or national office in her entire life) told me a few weeks ago that she had voted for the Republican congressional nominee in her district because she was annoyed that Obama had seemingly made health care reform the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, rather than jobs and the economy. In trying to explain the connection between what he was doing and the economy/deficit (particularly in a long term sense), or the unified efforts undertaken by Republican members to water down the stimulus and the HCR bill (both of which they ultimately voted against), and to defeat every other administration effort to stimulate the economy and turn the unemployment situation around (for the politics of it all), she was having none of it, focusing her complaints on all of the time and attention that the Obama administration spent working on HCR.

But another thing she said in that same conversation illustrates why Continetti is way off base in the assertion quoted above. She also made it very clear that, if the GOP focuses much or all of its energy on repealing health care and taking other political shots at Obama in order to defeat him in 2012 (such as by playing chicken with the extension of the debt ceiling, etc.), she will be just as pissed off at the GOP, because she thinks that they should focus all or almost all of their attention on improving the economy and reducing unemployment. No ifs, ands or buts.

In 2012, the normal increase in the number of people voting during a presidential election, which will likely include as many as 40+ million people who voted in 2008 but sat out the 2010 election, in and of itself, will hurt the GOP enormously. That said, if the Republicans who won in 2010 piss off many of their newly repatriated voters by focusing most or all of their energy on repealing health care reform and taking political shots at President Obama, the President's margin of victory in 2012 will likely be even larger than the 9 million vote blowout margin that he enjoyed in 2008.

So I hope the GOP takes Continetti's advice, which appeals to a lot of them (mostly because they have nothing else to offer that makes any sense economically).

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