The Price of the GOP's Obamacare Repeal Obsession

Voters don't want the Republicans to keep obstructing

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I wrote yesterday about how the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll demonstrated the GOP's problem with being disconnected from the mainstream of American voters. In short, while most Americans deplore gridlock and think congressional Republicans have been too inflexible, Republican voters think that the party hasn't been inflexible enough. This leaves Republicans with a choice of pleasing their base or appealing to swing voters, but they can't do both.

Today's "First Read" from NBC brings another example, drilling a bit further down into the poll's crosstabs. Focusing on Obamacare, Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro and Brooke Brower write:

The good news for the administration in our poll is that a majority of adults – 51% – believe Republicans should stop trying to block the implementation of the law. But here's a bit more bad news: A whopping 79% of Republicans say the GOP should do everything it can to prevent it from going into effect. That's the conundrum the president find himself in on this issue: If GOP lawmakers act rationally in their own political self-interest, it means more repeal attempts because it's what their base wants.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Of course it depends on one's definition of "political self-interest." The GOP again faces a choice between narrow political needs (pleasing the base) and broader ones (the need to appeal to swing voters and win national elections). Right-wing ideologues try to square this circle by insisting that the country as a whole secretly yearns for their rigid brand of conservatism, but polls and real life experience indicate otherwise.

In the mean time, it's clear that most top Republicans have decided to err on the side of pleasing the base, especially as regards Obamacare. Hence the ongoing attempts to obstruct the law, as noted by Norm Ornstein in National Journal.