The single biggest factor in yesterday's surprise delay of the Boehner plan vote was Republican disbelief that a bond downgrade would be that much of a problem. Everything else flowed from that. It became possible for conservatives to game out the politics of delay because some number of them thought it would be worth holding up the process through August 2nd to get more concessions. (Jim DeMint has said that explicitly.)
So it's useful to note which Republicans helped turn that into dogma -- for a couple more hours, at least. From a classic media/message perspective, Michele Bachmann was the GOP establishment's biggest impediment. She spent the week campaigning in Iowa, and her big event on Thursday was a speech at the National Press Club with reporters present from every major news organization. She reiterated her opposition to raising the debt limit, even though she'd signed her own special version of Cut, Cap, and Balance that pledged her to raise the limit if the final deal included the repeal of the Affordable Care Act -- a fantasy. While Republicans were whipping votes, she sent out a fundraising letter.
President Obama is approaching the debt ceiling the wrong way. Any plan that begins by raising the debt ceiling is the wrong plan.
That’s why I’m writing you today — I need to know you agree with me that we simply cannot afford to raise the debt ceiling. Will you help me deliver this message loud and clear by making an emergency contribution of $25, $50, $100, $250 or any amount up to the $2,500 limit?
The GOP's national groups were split on the measure. American Crossroads, the Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Tax Reform backed it. FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity were asking their members to call Congress and oppose it. It was in this climate, at 4:03 p.m., that Sarah Palin emerged with a Facebook note. "Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries," she wrote. That was classic Palin -- a threat with no personal downside, crafted to get media attention, re-fighting the last war. Palin, remember, helped Joe Miller through his U.S. Senate primary, but couldn't get him elected statewide in the best Republican year since Murder, She Wrote was on. Her Facebook note was familiar to anyone who's put out a call for friends to help him move, and watches one of the friends show up at the last minute to lift one box then dig into the pizza you've provided. But it didn't help.
Republicans still have a problem as they put together votes. They haven't done the legwork convincing their base that something with such a scary ring -- "raising the debt ceiling!" -- is actually necessary. For all the concessions they've gotten, and they are massive, they are not yet past this. They're being egged on by their activist base and by the Republicans who appeal to them. Jon Huntsman was the only presidential candidate who endorsed Boehner's plan. Did you notice?