So, which newspaper's going to file the first "WH quietly thinking about delaying ObamaCare" story?

Rest assured, the White House is quietly thinking about delaying ObamaCare. Even if there’s only a five percent chance right now that they end up doing it, the scope of the disaster that is means they’ve got to be kicking this idea around in some form. As Megan McArdle explained yesterday, if they can’t iron out the wrinkles by around this time next month, they’ll be risking total chaos next year — a huge backlog of data to process, people trying to use coverage when they haven’t properly enrolled yet, and a huge pool of healthy uninsured young adults whom they need to fund this boondoggle having given up trying to enroll on the feds’ Chernobyl-esque website.

So yeah, they’re thinking about it. Who’ll be the first to find a source up the chain who’s willing to say so to a reporter?

As noted yesterday, the consolation prize from the shutdown being over is that Obama no longer has to worry about losing face by agreeing to a delay while under fiscal pressure from the GOP. He’ll still resist delaying the law for as long as he can — it’ll be a momentous embarrassment to do so and a foot in the door for the “repeal” crowd — but it’s easier to do it now, on “his own terms,” when he looks like he’s being magnanimous or whatever, than it is while Republicans are making a power play. And no matter how reluctant he is to pull the plug, an abortive rollout will be easier to recover from than forcing the public to go through hell for six months trying to use and potentially souring them on the law permanently. That would add fuel to the repeal fire more than delay would. As it is, here’s where we are today:

The federal agency in charge of the exchanges signed agreements this summer with several e-brokers to sell health plans in the 36 states where the feds are running the new individual marketplaces. But the online brokers, eager to tap a new market of people who’ll qualify for federal subsidies, learned shortly before the Oct. 1 launch that they wouldn’t be able to offer exchange plans right away.

The brokers say the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services didn’t act fast enough to let them integrate their websites with the IT systems supporting the federal insurance marketplaces. They hope to get everything linked up with the feds in the coming weeks.

“I think it just comes down to they weren’t ready,” said Michael Mahoney, vice president of consumer marketing for Web broker GoHealth. “Like anybody else, when they realized they weren’t going to be ready with a variety of things, they have to look at circumstances and prioritize.”

I’m as confident as you are that integrating those e-broker systems with the unstable federal data hub will be seamless. This is normally the point in any conservative ObamaCare analysis where the specter of Cloward-Piven appears and some people start claiming this giant failure is all part of the Democratic plan to present single-payer as the deus ex machina that’ll rescue America. Not likely — at least, not until Obama has himself a Democratic Congress again. Besides, like Charles Cooke says, the last thing you’d want to do if you’re trying to engineer a total government takeover of health care is show the public in gruesome detail that … government is really, really incompetent at overseeing health care:

[T]he law remains pretty unpopular. That the government has demonstrated so publicly that it is too incompetent to run what is a glorified comparison website — even when given hundreds of millions of dollars and a three-year lead time — cannot have helped the progressive dream of single-payer one bit. Hopefully, Republicans will have the nous to hammer this home over and over and over again during the next few months. Americans hate the DMV. Obamacare’s exchanges are currentlt worse than the DMV. Free marketeers, who may be tempted instead to talk abstractly about how bad things are in countries that most Americans have never visited – let alone lived in – should capitalize on that.

That’s another reason why O is surely contemplating delaying the law (and secretly wishing he could fire people for botching this so horribly, even though he won’t). The longer he sticks with it, the greater the risk that the whole universal health-care endeavor in all its statist glory will be jeopardized long-term. If becomes a punchline among young (and left-leaning) Americans, who knows what that’ll do to the prospects of greater government power over health care later. Some lefties like Joan Walsh have been scoffing on Twitter that the “glitches” mean much of anything, but Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker is closer to the truth, I think: “The ACA is the most important liberal project in decades. If it fails, it is a complete disaster for liberalism.”

Via John Sexton, tick tock.