Byron York

Some Republican lawmakers dismiss the proposal as “too cute.” And others are looking at other solutions. Since GOP opposition to a tax increase on the highest bracket is based in large part on the fact that many small businesses file as individuals and would be hit by a rate hike, some lawmakers are searching for a mechanism that would raise the rate on wealthy tax filers but not on top-bracket filers who have a certain number of employees.

The search for solutions doesn't seem to matter to Obama, who has been reassuring allies on the left that he's not going to back down. Recently Obama called in his supporting team from MSNBC -- Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell, Al Sharpton and Ed Schultz -- for a messaging session. They, like others on the left who have spoken to the president, left happy.

Republicans have put together a collection of statements from Democrats who welcome going over the cliff. And they're highlighting the fact that Obama has hardened his position, going from a statement in July 2011 that he wanted more revenue, but it did not necessarily have to come from raising tax rates, to today's feet-in-concrete position. If -- maybe when -- disaster comes, the GOP will make a good case that it was Obama's arrogance and overreach that brought it on.

But that's not much to hold on to, and there's not a lot of optimism in GOP ranks. “There's a growing sense that it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the top rates don't go up somehow,” says a senior Republican Senate aide.

“We're in a tough situation,” says the senior House Republican. “If we could not get a good agreement in 2011, when we had just picked up 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate, how in the heck are we going to get a good deal now?”

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner