I personally have a pretty good idea of a strategy Republicans could pursue over the next four years assuming the Democrats do pass some health care package, which still seems pretty likely despite all the confusion in Washington.
1. Scare the hell out of the American people and run against the health care reform in 2010 and 2012.
2. See above.
...For the next four years, Republicans will be able to say whatever they want about the health care reforms that were passed but won't come into effect for years. Republicans will be able to come up with another "death panel" every week.
I think that's just about right as far as future GOP strategy is concerned. Given that strategy, Democrats should be pushing back (here's the Josh Marshall angle) as hard as possible against this sort of thing, found in today's WaPo article on the public option:
But while the idea has given conservatives an opening to attack Obama for allegedly supporting government-run health care...
The key here is that if it polls well, Republicans are going to accuse Obama of supporting government-run health care regardless of what's in the bill. They're going to accuse him of socialism, and fascism, regardless of what's in the bill. They're going to accuse him of supporting death panels and killing Sarah Palin's kid, regardless of what's in the bill. Not just the Michelle Bachmanns of the GOP (the Democrats have their kooks and nuts too), but the most visible, highest-ranked people in the party. That's the media environment that the Democrats are facing. There are lots of things to say about that environment (first of all, that I don't think it's particularly a good thing for conservatives and Republicans interested in winning elections to act that way), and there are plenty of difficult decisions to make based on that environment, but the one clear lesson I think is that Democrats should not change the substance of their policies in order to avoid giving conservatives an "opening" to say crazy stuff.