Wouldn’t be the worst way this drama could end for POTUS, frankly. Having the party break ranks to thwart him would be momentarily embarrassing but it would bail him out of a potentially thornier situation. If the feds miss a pay period and federal workers start walking off the job en masse, that’d be messy and might force a full presidential surrender. If congressional Republicans start flipping first, that’s much more easily explained. The treacherous RINOs would have proved once again that they’re unwilling to stand and fight. Trump did his part. He was stabbed in the back. Result: Shutdown over, establishment blamed, Trump’s populist cred intact.

No wonder House Republican leaders aren’t making a fuss to keep their members in line.

Despite the White House PR blitz, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and other senior Republicans believe that “a significant bloc” of House Republicans could vote with Democrats on the funding measures, according to GOP lawmakers and aides.

A senior House GOP aide said McCarthy and his top lieutenants believe 15 to 25 Republicans will vote with Democrats this week, possibly even more.

“We have a lot of members who are gonna want to vote for these things,” said the GOP aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Publicly, we will never tell them to do it. Privately, we will tell them to do what they have to do.”

Pelosi’s strategy is to roll out a series of smaller spending bills targeting individual agencies to force Republicans to take uncomfortable votes. For instance, they’ll have a vote on whether to fund the IRS specifically. Any GOPer who votes no will be accused afterward of not wanting taxpayers to get their refunds in a timely way. (Question via an Axios source: Why not let Republicans vote to re-open every agency except DHS?) Kevin McCarthy’s goal, apparently, is simply to hold the number of Republican defections below 55, the magic number Pelosi would need for a veto-proof majority. Mitch McConnell could still block a bill like that from passing the Senate, of course, and there’ll never be a veto-proof majority in the upper chamber to open the government against Trump’s wishes, but the spectacle of dozens of Republicans siding with Pelosi to render his veto irrelevant would be so embarrassing to the White House that I think they’d look for a way to re-open the government themselves if it came to that. That’s why Mike Pence is on the Hill every day trying to boost morale — not because he’s trying to keep all House Republicans in the fold but because he’s trying to limit the defections to “only” a few dozen, before the veto-override threshold is approached.

As I write this at 1 p.m. ET, the WSJ is reporting that POTUS is still undecided on whether to declare a national emergency. Doing so would help him out of his political predicament, but I’d guess that everyone inside the White House apart from Stephen Miller is advising him that it’ll set a terrible example for his successors. His aides told the Times that he’s writing tonight’s speech himself, which … hoo boy. Meanwhile, Gabriel Sherman reports that Trump no longer views this as a political stunt, assuming he ever did:

It’s the president’s personal Alamo. Inside the West Wing, Trump has told aides he’s prepared to stake his presidency on making a last stand. “He has convinced himself he can’t win re-election in 2020 unless he gets a lot of the wall built. It’s fundamental to his id,” a former West Wing official said. “The problem is, the Democrats know that.”

Trump’s aides fear he has given himself no way out. “The president put himself in a box,” the former official in touch with the White House told me. “The problem is there’s no endgame. Right now the White House is at a seven on the panic scale. If this thing goes on past the State of the Union they’re going to be at an 11.” Another prominent Republican close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described Trump’s handling of the shutdown as “total fucking chaos.”

Of course he can get reelected if the wall doesn’t get built. He’ll have to do it without Ann Coulter’s vote and the votes of like six other people who supported him in 2016, but he’ll be fine. Besides, the question isn’t really “Will fans still vote for him if he doesn’t build the wall?” It’s this: “What’s more likely to cause fans not to vote for him, failing to build the wall or extending the shutdown to the point where it hurts their bottom lines?” An interesting quote from an NYT story about the shutdown’s impact in Florida:

The shutdown on top of the hurricane has caused Ms. Minton to rethink a lot of things.

“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

“He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting” is the most Trumpist lament imaginable. A Twitter pal flags this interview too:

The wall is great and all, and it’s fine to take a stand on it if only the Bad People end up getting hurt, but what about when it hurts the Good People too? “Real people are really hurting, and those stories can become overwhelming,” said one GOP strategist to the Hill in describing Trump’s predicament. That’s what House Republicans are worried about, and soon McConnell will be too.

Update: Yep, here we go. Emergency declaration to the rescue!

Republican support for an emergency declaration to build President Donald Trump’s border wall is growing in Congress, as GOP leaders and White House officials view it as a way out of a shutdown fight they’re losing.

With a partial government shutdown now in its 18th day, and Trump weighing the extraordinary move ahead of an Oval Office address Tuesday night, some of the president’s advisers argue an emergency declaration of a border crisis — to free up billions of dollars for Trump’s border wall — would allow Republicans to reopen the federal government without looking like they’ve caved to Democrats.

Trump declares an emergency and seizes Pentagon funding for the wall; McConnell quickly passes Pelosi’s clean spending bills and re-opens the government; then the courts take over. If he wins there, great for him. If he loses, eh. Not his fault. Not congressional Republicans’ fault either. It’s those farking unelected judges who stuck it to him again. Win/win for everyone, especially the future Democratic president who’ll point back to this when he/she wants to seize Pentagon money for some garbage left-wing program.