Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain, fresh off a victory at a key Florida straw poll, just went on CNN and basically said that FEMA needs full funding without offsets, a blow to the united front from Republicans on the issue that could lead to a government shutdown.

“I would make sure that FEMA got the money it needed, and if I had to go find the offsets later, go find it later. Stop playing with people’s tragedies — these are real people we’re talking about,” Cain said on CNN.

That’s precisely the rhetoric that Democrats should be using and are using to describe this issue. They haven’t totally separated the government funding issue from the issue of offsetting disaster relief, but they ought to follow Cain’s lead on this one.

Cain also told the Tea Party to give up on this because the consequences are too great.

Cain also responded to criticism from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who said that the budget standoff was “embarrassing” and that Tea Party conservatives needed to do a better job picking their battles. Cain agreed with the Virginia Democrat, saying that this is not an issue he would pursue as doggedly as have House conservatives.

“This is one that I would basically try to, you know, fall on my sword for — go ahead and do what’s right for the people,” Cain said. “People should not have to suffer because of the political bickering.”

This really shows the political difficulty of the corner House Republicans have backed themselves into. Keep in mind that Cain and the GOP aren’t that far apart on the substantive details – Cain wants to see offsets for disaster relief, he just wants to do them later on in the process. But in the bright glare of a possible shutdown – both of the federal government and of FEMA – Cain blinked, and told his party to blink as well. And Cain’s on the right edge of his party, with a lot of Tea Party backing. If Democrats manage to be smart about this, they can force this kind of pressure on the House Republican leadership.

The first test of this is whether Senate Republicans go forward with blocking the stopgap continuing resolution without disaster relief offsets, which Harry Reid will bring to a vote today. Democrats will surely use this quote from Herman Cain as they challenge Republicans Senators who just a week ago voted for a disaster funding bill without offsets.

UPDATE: Looks like FEMA can hold on for a few more days, which, as Brian Beutler explains, helps out Harry Reid and the Democrats a bit.

UPDATE II: Video here.