Two words: “Speaker Cantor.”

Seriously, though, I’m skeptical that he’d do this.

House Speaker John Boehner, hoping to spare fellow Republicans a second embarrassing defeat over payroll tax cuts, is prepared to navigate around rebellious Tea Party-aligned lawmakers to get a deal, according to congressional aides…

Boehner’s office would not comment on possible divisions among Republicans in the upcoming debate over the payroll tax cut or tactics to get a bill passed. But one House Republican leadership aide told Reuters: “I think Boehner will seek a more accommodating approach to get a good percentage of Democrats to vote for it – even if it costs him a lot of House Republican freshmen.”…

Some Tea Party lawmakers, however, see round two of the payroll tax cut negotiations as another opportunity to press their demands for cuts to unemployment benefits and some federal healthcare programs and a freeze on federal workers’ pay. Those are unlikely to be accepted by Democrats who feel they have the political upper hand…

A senior Senate Republican aide said December’s drama might have even strengthened Boehner’s hand. Given that a conservative groundswell in late December to block the two-month payroll tax cut, against Boehner’s advice, “backfired in a big way,” some of those conservatives might now conclude that “Boehner knows what he’s doing” and fall into line with him.

Remember back on January 3 when a “senior White House official” floated this very idea — that Boehner should do an end-around tea partiers by making a deal with Democrats and passing the bill with help from Republican moderates? Quote: “Abandoning such a stance, members on both sides have said, would almost certainly prompt a challenge to his leadership from conservatives who make up the bulk of the lower chamber GOP, a challenge the speaker is likely to lose.” Boehner’s own press secretary called the proposal “remarkably stupid” when asked about it. To have a Republican speaker cut his own caucus loose at the start of an election year to make a deal with The One would play straight into the Democrats’ hands in their messaging about a “do-nothing Congress” (“Republicans are so obstructionist that even John Boehner won’t deal with them anymore!”), so yeah, a leadership challenge really might follow. Which means the only way Boehner would consider doing this, I take it, is if he had some votes more or less already lined up within the freshmen class for a deal with the Democrats so that he could point to them as proof that “tea partiers are split” or whatever.

Either that or Republican leaders are so worried about a decline in the tea party’s brand that Boehner’s willing to risk putting a little distance between the party’s leadership and GOP freshmen. (Especially on a budget deal; remember, according to that recent Rasmussen poll, 45 percent of unaffiliateds said the tea party’s impact on the budget debate had made things worse versus 25 percent who said it made things better.) Maybe Boehner expects that, precisely because it is an election year, the caucus would think twice about ousting him and feeding the media a million headlines like “GOP in disarray!!” and “Tea-party coup!!!” He could even try to sell the right on the maneuver by framing it as an election pep talk. E.g., “I hate having to deal with a Democratic Senate but we need to move on from this penny ante issue to more important spending debates. The way to solve this problem next year is to take back the Senate so that no one has to make these awful compromises.” Exit question: Think it’ll work? (Me neither.)