WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE…. The NYT noted over the weekend that senior Senate Democrats are “increasingly confident” that health care reform really will pass this fall. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who hasn’t exactly been helpful this year, said, “I am Scandinavian, and we don’t like to overstate anything. But I have a solid feeling about the direction of events.”

What’s driving the optimism? According to a report in Roll Call, moderate Dems appear less likely to break ranks on the signature domestic issue of their party.

Moderate Senate Democrats face increasing pressure to support a health care bill that includes a public insurance option, and many appear prepared to fall in line with Democratic leaders — provided they are presented with a bill that can withstand public scrutiny in their home states.

Centrists are adamant that any bill they support must be deficit-neutral. But they are also loath to cross President Barack Obama by causing a health care bill to fail this year. […]

To seal the endorsement of moderates, Democratic leaders are working to wrap the controversial elements of reform in a politically attractive message to the centrists’ conservative-leaning constituents. That could include the addition of provisions aimed directly at problems or issues in each Senator’s state, such as tweaks to state funding formulas for federal programs, aides said.

We’re looking, in other words, at the usual kind of horse-trading that makes the legislative process function.

The key, however, still isn’t lining up 60 votes for reform — it’s lining up 60 votes to overcome GOP obstructionism. The Roll Call piece added, “At a minimum, leaders have asked all 60 Democrats to allow them to bring a health care bill to the floor in order to make sure Republicans cannot filibuster it.”

In related news, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC this morning that a public option has between 54 and 56 votes in the Senate. “I’m talking to some of the moderates,” Schumer said, “and they’re very open to it.”

If that count is right — and it’s a higher number than I usually hear — the key would be to find four to six Democrats who oppose the public option to nevertheless let their colleagues vote up or down on the bill.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.