WASHINGTON -- Negotiations to avoid the series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 are continuing in Washington but without much hope that a deal can be reached.
The drama even brought Santa Claus to Capitol Hill at the behest of the group Catholics United.
"My staff up at the North Pole are as concerned as I am about the fate of so many children and families and what will happen to them due to this childish squabbling here in Congress if it doesn't end," the Santa impersonator said.
Some critics like Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, are suggesting President Obama is calculating he's likely to come out a winner, deal or no deal.
"He may be more willing to go over and therefore able in effect to carry off a bluff, whereas the Republicans don't really have a hand of cards that allow them to successfully pull off a bluff," Hanna said.
Polls show the GOP will get the blame if there's no deal and everyone's taxes go up.
Hanna said the president can then turn right around and propose "a tax cut for the lower 98 percent that would be very hard for Republicans to resist."
"What Republican who is always talking about the benefits of tax cuts and smaller government is going to vote against a tax cut that would help 98 percent of Americans, 98 percent of taxpayers?" Hanna said.
Then Obama will have isolated the 2 percent of wealthier Americans he insists must pay more taxes. Even if all this fails, the Democrats would get all that extra tax money to spend from all Americans.
"They are in a commanding position," Hanna concluded.
With all the cards stacked against Republicans, even some conservatives are saying GOP lawmakers should throw in the towel and avoid a horrible public relations disaster.
"If we go over the cliff, there won't be damage to Obama's chances of second-term success. Quite the contrary. What Republicans will have done is to make Democrats the party of tax cuts and Obama a president fighting for economic growth," Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said.
But even with that almost certain outcome, Hanna and other diehards still believe GOP leaders should fight to the bitter end.
Hanna said they should just concentrate on huge spending cuts because higher taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent will only raise a small amount of what's needed.
"This 2 percent fight is actually going to solve only 8 percent of the problem," he said.
Hanna said without massive spending cuts, everyone's taxes would need to go up 60 percent to dig out of the deficit and that would so depress the economy, America would plunge over a much worse fiscal cliff.