As we near the 11th hour before a government shutdown, the wavering on the GOP side is intense. I mentioned some of it this morning: Pat Toomey and Michele Bachman balked at shutting down the government over riders. Bachmann has expanded on that in a post at RedState with the title “Not a Big Enough Fight.” Joining her in this assessment: Mike Huckabee:

“Nobody’s more pro-life than me. Nobody,” Huckabee said. “But as much as I want to see Planned Parenthood defunded, as much as I want to see NPR lose their funding, the reality is the president and the Senate are never gonna go along with that. So win the deal you can win and live to fight another day.”

Karl Rove (not sure I agree with his argument – reliance on the “strong leader” ratings looks spurious – but FWIW):

While government shutdowns didn’t jeopardize Republicans’ hold on Congress, they helped President Clinton position himself for a successful 1996 re-election. President Obama’s ratings as a strong leader have slipped this year – Gallup polling last week found he had dropped 8 points. Republicans should be careful not to let him recover as he gears up for his 2012 re-election campaign.

And Tom Coburn:

President Barack Obama isn’t likely to sign legislation with House-passed policy “riders,” including restrictions on abortion, the Oklahoma Republican said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. Coburn, an obstetrician who opposes abortion, said it’s more important to find solutions to put the country on a longer-term path to fiscal stability.

“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.”

Incidentally, I found that one when it was tweeted out by fellow Republican Senator Mark Kirk.

Republicans look terrified to actually go through with the shutdown given the focus on women’s health and choice. The question then becomes: who’s forcing the issue?

By the way, all these Republicans are merely saying to declare victory and wrap this up. Because they know what everyone knows – this will be a substantive policy victory that sets them up well for future fights on spending. Democrats basically came almost 100% of the way to their side on that, now offering $38 billion in budget cuts in the 2011 fiscal year. That’s a real policy shift to austerity at a time when fiscal stimulus is actually still necessary. Republicans can take that sure policy victory and move on to the next fight, or sit around trying to impose a social agenda and take a political hit that could change the policy implications. The choice is clear for anyone with enough reason – and since Michele Bachmann agrees, I guess unreason as well.