THEY MAY ACTUALLY BE ‘A BUNCH OF YAHOOS’…. A month before the midterm elections, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said, “I don’t think the country needs or wants a shutdown.” He added that when it comes to pursuing their agenda, Republicans “have to be careful” or they’ll be “seen as a bunch of yahoos.”

As of today, the likelihood of these yahoos shutting down the government just two months after taking office seems pretty high.

House Speaker John Boehner’s “read my lips” threat yesterday increased the odds of a shutdown exponentially, and a high-ranking aide to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Democratic chiefs of staff today that a shutdown is more likely than not.

Similarly, I traded emails yesterday with a Capitol Hill staffer with whom I speak regularly, and I think the aide’s perspective is worth passing along. (I’m republishing the staffer’s note with permission.)

I’m of a firm belief the government will shut down after March 4th because the House and Senate won’t be able to come to a conclusion on a CR [continuing resolution]. So it isn’t a question of “if” in my mind, it is a question of “how long.”

It’s becoming clearer and clearer everyday that Republicans in the House have no connection to reality and are willing to burn it all down. Staff have sat dumbfounded over the last few days watching the floor, which no media is reporting on, to see how disconnected Republicans are from basic math. Their CR would do practically nothing to address the debt, but it will stunt any economic recovery (which they will blame on Obama).

What I don’t hear people talking about is that so many members of the House are millionaires and don’t seem to care how this will affect people. I don’t know how they can look their staffs in the eye, who will be royally screwed by this.

The wild card is President Obama. As we discussed last year, he has yet to prove he has a spine. I fear he will cave and give in on most if not all of the Republican demands. In that case our last defense would be a small set of Dem Senators who have yet to lose their minds. But we will see.

It’s hard to say how the White House and Senate Democrats are prepared to respond to the House GOP’s demands, because at this point, House Republicans aren’t even talking to Democrats. It’s tempting to think, with just 14 days left to avoid a shutdown, there’d be some kind of negotiations underway. By all appearances, that’s not the case — the House GOP leadership is working on its job-killing plan; it’s off all next week; and discussions are effectively non-existent.

In the meantime, Boehner told Fox News the other day, “There’s been no talk about shutting the government down on our side,” despite all kinds of talk about shutting the government down on his side.

I’d say the odds of a shutdown — at least one, starting midnight on March 4 — are about 70%.

Steve Benen

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.