A weakened President Obama will back down if there is a standoff over funding ObamaCare and preventing a government shutdown, House conservatives say…

At least 43 conservatives want the GOP leadership to go for broke, asserting that Obama has been damaged by stumbles over Syria and by several delays in implementing the Affordable Care Act…

“I think the president’s too weak to shut the government down … I think we will win,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) said…

“To assume that they won’t yield is making the assumption that Democrats will not listen to their constituents back home. And I disagree with that. Because the American people realize that [ObamaCare’s] not ready for prime time,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said.

***

“What I haven’t been willing to negotiate, and I will not negotiate, is on the debt ceiling,” Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on “This Week.”

“If we continue to set a precedent in which a president … is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, ‘Well, we’re not going to put — pay the bills unless you give us … what we want,’ that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely,” Obama said…

“All I can do when it comes to that group of members of Congress is to continue to talk to ‘em and say, ‘Let’s put aside our differences. Let’s stay focused on the American people,’” Obama said. “If we do that, we can get things done.”

***

A Republican plan aimed at averting a government shutdown on October 1 ran into a wall of opposition last week from conservatives in the House, and leaders delayed votes on it until this week.

The plan, derided as a “trick” by some conservatives, would have let them cast an essentially symbolic vote to defund the healthcare law without risking a shutdown, which is feared by party leaders who remember the political damage they suffered when government offices closed their doors in the mid-1990s.

Under the plan, Republican leaders were prepared to extend funding through mid-December at an annualized $988 billion, the same amount as 2013 after reductions went into effect under the across-the-board cuts called sequestration. The White House signaled last week it could live with a short-term extension at that level, even though the president wants to reverse the sequester cuts.

But some Democrats have said they want higher spending and would oppose a stopgap funding bill at the post-sequester amount.

***

What makes this time is different is that, in addition to having carved out hardline positions, neither side has an incentive to back down…

Start with the White House, which has been annoyingly open to concessions even when it has all the leverage. In my own conversations with White House officials (and people close to them) over the past few months, I’ve picked up a clear willingness to allow a shutdown if Republicans refuse to budge. This is unlike 2011, the last time the White House faced a shutdown situation. Back then, a well-connected former administration official told me recently, “the political strategists wanted a deal. [Senior adviser David] Plouffe wanted a deal . . . to increase our numbers with independents.” This time, according to this source, “There’s no constituency for caving.”

That jibes with the change of heart I’ve detected when speaking directly to White House officials. In 2011, they were queasy about the risks a shutdown posed to the rickety economy, which could ultimately hurt the president. This year, they believe a shutdown would strengthen their hand politically, which is almost certainly true given the public outrage that would rain down on Republicans. One official pointed out that the pressure for spending cuts has subsided with the deficit falling so rapidly on its own.

Of course, the president himself isn’t the toughest negotiator in the world. You can’t rule out the possibility that the White House will blink when the deadline gets close. At the very least, one can imagine Obama signing a short-term government funding measure (known as a continuing resolution) that leaves the automatic sequester cuts in place so long as it doesn’t touch Obamacare. But even if he were inclined to do this, Congressional Democrats seem less willing to support him than in the past. They believe they can demand much more in exchange for saving the GOP from a shutdown. “Our leadership thinks the time has come to draw a line in the sand, not do a short-term extension,” a senior Democratic Hill aide told Politico last week. “They’re ready for a flash and a pop.” Bottom line: Democrats across the board are more willing to broach a shutdown than at any other time during the past three years.

***

Republican leaders have balked. They have and are, even now, running hit jobs in Washington newspapers attacking the Heritage Foundation, Heritage Action for America, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and even the Club for Growth. The DC Republicans have refused to defund Obamacare — going so far as to schedule more symbolic votes to register their opposition to the law while refusing to connect its defunding to must pass measures like the continuing resolution.

Inside the Beltway, the DC GOP Establishment has recruited lobbyists and others to make the case for delaying Obamacare, instead of defunding it. They couch it as the same, but there’s a catch — the bureaucracy will still be able to lock Obamacare in and hurt businesses and people. Republican Leaders, with their “delay” effort will let the bureaucrats continue writing regulations for it, they’ll get rid of the Congressional exemption to Obamacare, but they are flat out refusing to fight the good fight to defund it…

For those who would argue this is just a rejection of the President and the GOP has done nothing — in 2012 the GOP nominated a nothing who did nothing on Obamacare and the public decided it’d rather go with the nothing it knew than the nothing it cared nothing for. Romney refused to focus his campaign like a laser on Obamacare because of Romneycare. But now, people are losing their jobs, their full time status, and their healthcare because of Obamacare. And they’re listening to Jim DeMint and his friends call for defunding it. And they’re hearing their Republican congressmen lie to them saying they too support defunding Obamacare.

Yes, it is true, the GOP would probably get the blame for a government shut down if that happened. But if they held the line until defunding happened, they would be rewarded. The public likes winners. And right now “Defund It!” is the winning message. It has boosted the GOP’s popularity and Congress’s approval rating. It will be devastating for the GOP if they show voters just how much they are not willing to fight. It’ll be “read my lips” all over again.

***

The principled theory, which I believe is the more accurate one, goes something like this: Desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s worth taking the political hit of a government shutdown now, because if we don’t, Obamacare will be permanent, and the war against big government will be lost forever.

In other words: The argument for shutting down the government over Obamacare is an explicitly defeatist one. It is that the endurance of Obamacare would represent a permanent, and irreversible, defeat for the cause of limited government.

And this is where the pro-shutdown forces go terribly wrong. The idea that we had a free-market health-care system before Obamacare, and a socialized one after, is completely and utterly incorrect. In 2010, before the passage of Obamacare, U.S.-government entities spent more per capita on health care than all but three other countries in the world. Obamacare adds to that spending by around 10 to 15 percent. Not good, to be sure, but not the whole kit and caboodle either.

Even if Obamacare can’t be reversed, it does not spell the doom of conservatism, any more than the passage of the Great Society in 1965 spelled the doom of conservatism, any more than the passage of the New Deal in the 1930s spelled the doom of conservatism, any more than the creation of the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve in 1913 spelled the doom of conservatism.

***

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said, “That’s not an agenda for economic growth.”

“I understand I will never convince some republicans about the merits of Obamacare,” he continued. “I understand that, and I am more than willing to work with them where they have specific suggestions that they can show will make the health care system better. Remember, initially this was like repeal and replace the replace thing has gone off to the wayside.”

“Are some of these folks really so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they’re willing to tank the entire economy just because they can’t get either way on this issue?” Obama asked. “Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points? I hope not.”

***

***

Via RCP.

***

Via the Daily Rushbo.