Laura Ingraham grills Cantor: You guys are going to try to repeal ObamaCare, right?

A fun interview, partly because Cantor is caught off-guard at being pressed during what he thought would be a friendly chat and partly because it perfectly captures the anxiety felt by grassroots conservatives about the Beltway GOP reverting to their old ways. (Note the exchange at the very end.) Here’s the bit in his recent interview with Politico that she’s talking about:

He seems to take a more modest — or at least realistic — approach to explaining what Republicans could do with a House majority.

Cantor said it’s unlikely that health care overhaul legislation will be repealed with Obama in the White House. But it’s more realistic to simply refuse to appropriate money to fund health care reform.

“If you deny agencies monies they need to promulgate [regulations] and do all of that, you certainly can slow a lot of things down and make the case to the public,” he told the group.

Ingraham’s response: Why not push a repeal bill immediately? Even if Obama vetoes it, that’s good politics for the GOP since a majority of the public supports repeal. Three problems with that, though. First, I think doing anything — literally anything — before addressing the economy sends a bad signal. Even if they introduce a repeal bill simultaneously with some sort of economic legislation knowing full well that the former will languish on the floor for months, it complicates the party’s “jobs jobs jobs” message. Which, ironically, would echo Obama’s own grand mistake in focusing on O-Care last year instead of unemployment. Democrats are in the position they are, to some extent, because they can’t prioritize. It’s important for the GOP to provide a contrast.

Second, is it really some big political boon for the GOP to get Obama to veto a repeal bill? It would, as Ingraham notes, put him on the wrong side of a majority of likely voters, but … he’s already on that side. His support for O-Care is already priced into his political stock. Having Republicans focus immediately on a bill that everyone knows is doomed to die on The One’s desk makes them look unserious, which again is why “jobs jobs jobs” should be the first and only priority. Once they’ve gotten something done there and proved their seriousness, then they can force doomed bills on Obama to make a political point. (Also, the polling on O-Care is more complex than “a majority supports repeal.” When Fox News polled this last month and gave voters a choice of implementing the law as is, making changes to it, and repealing the whole thing, the split was 15/42/36.)

Third, I’m not so sure a repeal bill would make it to Obama’s desk at all. Even if the red wave turns into a red tsunami and the GOP takes the Senate too, how are you getting a repeal bill past a Democratic filibuster? If you’re counting on timid Blue Dogs being cowed into voting with the Republicans for fear of another red wave in 2012, you’re assuming an awful lot — that the economy will be this bad or even worse in two years and that they have nothing to fear from primary challenges launched by enraged liberals looking to punish them for voting against O-Care. I think you might get Ben Nelson to join with the GOP and maybe one or two others (Mark Pryor, etc), but I’d be stunned if you got anywhere near 60.

None of this is to say that they shouldn’t try to repeal O-Care eventually. The key, I think, is to simply build up a reservoir of political capital first rather than go hard at it from day one. If they do that over the next two years and we get a Republican president in 2012, they’ve got a real shot.