Now that the White House dream of a discharge petition is dead, they’ve turned to a foolproof Plan B: Politely taunting Boehner to bring a clean CR to the floor himself. O’s game here is to claim that Democrats would win if Boehner allowed that, but I don’t think that’s true. They would win if the House operated via secret ballot, but he’s got the same problem here as Pelosi has with her petition. Namely, it’s just too risky for centrist GOPers to cross the aisle and destroy the party’s negotiating leverage by casting an actual vote against shutdown. The reason Obama wants this vote isn’t because he expects Democrats would win, it’s because he expects it would fail along party lines (more or less) and then he could get back to claiming that this is all Republicans’ fault. Between the feds locking elderly vets out of war memorials and Reid refusing to fund the NIH so kids with cancer can get treated, that message lately has become, shall we say, muddled.

Since Plan B is doomed, then, it might be time for Plan C: Forget the CR for now and pressure Boehner by getting the Senate to vote on a clean debt-ceiling hike, in the hope/expectation that six Republicans there will cross the aisle. McCain, Graham, Collins, Murkowski, Kirk, and one other would do it, assuming all Democrats vote together. Which they will.

The aide said that they are confident that all 52 Democrats and both independents in the Senate would vote for a “clean” increase…

During the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations, 43 Republican senators sent a letter to Reid saying they would not support a “clean” debt-ceiling hike. Of the four who didn’t sign the letter, only two — Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — are still in office. Many Senate Republicans have complained openly about efforts led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to tie the debt ceiling and government shutdown issues to Obamacare, but that hasn’t translated into support for bills with no Republican demands attached.

But if Senate Democrats could pass a clean increase, it would put House Republican leadership in the awkward position of likely opposing something that they said a week before was not worth discussing because it couldn’t even pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Whether Reid can get six Republicans may depend upon what the polling over the shutdown looks like. Gallup reported this morning that considerably more people view the current shutdown as more serious than the 1995 version. Back then, 12 percent called it a “crisis” and 44 percent called it a “major problem”; this time, the numbers are 21 percent and 49 percent, respectively. ABC/WaPo, meanwhile, asked respondents whether they blame Obama, congressional Dems, or congressional Republicans more. Verdict:

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Majorities disapprove of everyone, but the growth in disapproval of the GOP is outpacing the growth for O and his caucus. Even in Utah, Mike Lee’s very red home state, nearly as many people blame the GOP for the shutdown as they do Obama. Is that enough to get six Senate Republicans to bend on a clean debt-ceiling hike?

One thing I don’t understand is why, per Ed’s post earlier, the White House would suddenly signal that they’d accept a short-term debt ceiling extension. Even if it’s true that they’d agree to one at the eleventh hour to avert hitting the debt limit, their goal right now is to convince Boehner that they absolutely, positively won’t negotiate, and therefore he should cave and pass a clean hike. Telling him that they’ll agree to a short-term hike is basically encouraging him not to cave, to keep pushing for demands because, even if he can’t get the White House to agree, they’ll bail him out at the last minute by agreeing to raise the debt-ceiling for a few weeks. I can only assume that they’re saying that now because they’re worried about the drop in the Dow this morning and want to show Wall Street that it’s not time to panic. Or is there another obvious reason I’m missing?

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