Alternate headline: “Mike Huckabee gives up on Republican nomination.” Before you RINO-stomp him in the comments, though, two things. First, he’s doing Boehner a huge favor here by giving him political cover among social conservatives to cave on the Planned Parenthood provisions. According to a recent Pew poll, Huck leads among evangelicals by double digits; if, under those circumstances, he’s willing to bend on defunding PP, Boehner’s probably safe to do so as well.

And second, he’s not the only prominent Republican who’s suddenly okay with making a deal. In a post late this afternoon at Red State, Michele Bachmann says it’s time to move on:

Don’t get me wrong, cuts in spending are a move in the right direction. House Republicans have brought about a change from the spending binge of the last two years. But it’s time to face the facts. This is the “small ball” battle that House leadership has chosen to engage. The current battle has devolved to an agenda that is almost too limited to warrant the kind of fighting that we’re now seeing in Washington.

Democrats only want to cut $33 billion of spending, while some reports say Republicans might settle for $40 billion. Either way, it’s not enough. We should be playing “big ball.” We should be fighting over trillions, not billions. We should be defunding ObamaCare, but we’re not…

I am ready for a big fight, the kind that will change the arc of history. And, I’m hoping that when it comes to issues like the debt ceiling, ObamaCare, and the 2012 budget, House Republicans will take the lead, draw a line in the sand and not back down from the fight.

Precisely right. So in addition to Huck’s cover with social cons, now Boehner’s got Bachmann’s cover with tea partiers. Any other big-name conservatives willing to wade in and greenlight a deal?

Why, yes. Via Dave Weigel, Tom Coburn wants to play “big ball” too:

“It’s pretty unrealistic to think with this president that you’re going to get a lot of riders,” said Coburn, 63. “That’s number one. Number two is, what’s the greatest moral dilemma of our day? Abortion certainly is a big one, but if we don’t address all these other financial issues that are going to cripple those that are with us, we’ll be making a mistake.”…

Coburn said that while Republicans should get more spending reductions if they can, it’s “pretty hard” to get further cuts with the party controlling only the House and “I’d take the best deal I could get.”

“It is important for their base to send the signal that we’re doing as hard as we can,” Coburn said. “It’s pretty hard to get spending cuts when you don’t control the White House and you don’t control the Senate.”

He still supports the rider banning funding for abortions in D.C. in Boehner’s short-term stopgap resolution, but clearly he’s not gung ho for a shutdown. So that’s where we are with a little more than six hours to go before the deadline. No wonder the White House says it’s increasingly optimistic.

Update: Still more cover for Boehner: Pat Toomey is willing to drop the policy riders too.