CNN reports on a potential thaw in the fiscal standoff:

On Wednesday, GOP leaders appeared to shift their focus from efforts to dismantle Obama’s signature health care reform, the initial driving force behind the shutdown, to securing spending cuts elsewhere. …

Meanwhile, GOP leaders were distancing themselves from demands by tea party conservatives to also make dismantling Obamacare a condition for agreement.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether Republican negotiators secure actual spending cuts or, rather, some kind of a framework in which subsequent negotiations will take place. But the tabling of Obamacare represents half the battle for the Obama administration.

It’s worth stepping back to look at the Spinal Tap sandwich that Republicans—because they could not agree on tactics—have put Obama in: The House leadership, plus Rep. Paul Ryan, now seek nonmaximal budget concessions from the administration. But all along, they’ve eyed the most dangerous hostage—the debt ceiling. The kami-cons, meanwhile, sought a maximal concession—the defunding or delay or Obamacare—but eyed a lower-value target: the continuing resolution to keep the government open.

Obama won’t bargain on the debt ceiling.

And he won’t bargain on Obamacare.

Two separate factions of Republicans tried to make him do both—and for different reasons.

Clowns to the left of him, jokers to the right.

There is a deal to be had now that Obamacare is again on the backburner and a short-term debt ceiling increase is apparently in play. The mismatch of demands and leverage points is coming back into balance. And so we’re left to wonder what House Republicans could have accomplished had they retained a sense of proportion and sought reasonable concessions without attempting to seize the highest-value hostage. A repeal of the medical device tax, plus sequester-level budget caps? The Keystone pipeline? More?

Instead they’ll get peanuts, and an even more badly damaged national brand.