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Republicans should be scared of repealing Obamacare, and this poll shows why

People cheer in front of the Supreme Court after a ruling was announced on the Affordable Care Act on June 25, 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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Republicans are getting very worried about repealing Obamacare, and tensions have begun to boil over, as The Post's Mike DeBonis reports.

A new poll shows exactly why they should be concerned.

The Quinnipiac University poll shows that just 16 percent of Americans want Congress to repeal all of Obamacare, while 51 percent say it should repeal only parts and 30 percent say it shouldn't repeal anything. This echoes other polling showing the Affordable Care Act rising in popularity and that full repeal has fallen out of favor — even as the GOP prepares to repeal the law one way or another.

Even more illustrative in the new poll, though, is this: Voters indicated they'll actually punish those who vote for repeal. Quinnipiac asked them whether they would be more likely or less likely to vote for a senator or member of Congress who votes for repeal, and by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, they said less likely.

Fully 43 percent said they would be less likely to vote for someone who repeals Obamacare, while only 24 percent said they would be more likely.

This is in contrast to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from March 2014 that asked basically the same question. Back then, 47 percent said they would be more likely to vote for someone who votes to repeal Obamacare, while just 32 percent said they would be less likely.

So it's basically been flipped. The bloom is off the repeal rose, it would seem.

Of course, this doesn't mean repealing Obamacare is necessarily going to lose a whole bunch of Republicans reelection races come 2018 (if they actually wind up repealing it). In addition to the 24 percent who want their member to support repeal, another 29 percent say it makes no difference. That's a majority combined.

But it's also clear that we've seen a pretty demonstrable flip in voter desires when it comes to repealing Obamacare. What seemed like a good idea in the abstract for many voters no longer seems so; about half of those who once said they would be more likely to vote for a repeal advocate no longer say that. And even Republican voters aren't terribly gung-ho about repeal; just 50 percent say a repeal vote would make them more likely to back a politician.

The evolving nature of the Obamacare repeal debate renders poll questions like this somewhat limited in value. What if Republicans have a replacement plan to sub in for Obamacare when they replace it? What if they keep many of its popular components, like coverage for preexisting conditions and allowing kids to stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26? Perhaps people won't view that as simply repealing the law, but keeping some parts of it. Maybe they'll warm to the GOP's still-elusive alternative.

Either way, though, the R-word has suddenly become a scary one for voters, which makes it a scary one for members of Congress. And that's before they even set about figuring out whether their replacement will actually work — which involves a whole other series of pitfalls.