Kabuki Square Dance
It's hard to know where the negotiations on the debt ceiling really stand, but from what we can gather today, Boehner has said that he can't "Go Big" but they might be able to "compromise" by going back to the prior 2-trillion-in-cuts-in-exchange-for-air "medium" deal.
Apparently, the bluff was in asking for the moon (massive cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security on the table) but really expecting a smaller deal with only a couple trillion. One might have expected Democrats to ask for 4 trillion in higher taxes and then settled for less, but that's a different game, so now it's a matter of believing that we "won" because the Republicans "backed down" and we only got a trillion or so in spending cuts. (I'd expect to see some arbitrary number on that --- "we need something slightly less than 2 trillion" --- which is a hallmark of this administration's political calculation.)
So, at the moment, one could see a deal being spun as the White House "compromising" by giving up its Grand Bargain in exchange for only a couple trillion or so in cuts. And one can only presume this means the President believes he will be able to run in 2012 as the fellow who tried to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security but the Republicans wouldn't let him. If he's very clever he can also blame the jobs crisis on their unwillingness to slash spending enough to get this economy rolling.
It would be an extremely unusual pitch for a Democrat but he has a ton of goodwill among the faithful and everyone in the middle has been so thoroughly propagandized by both parties that they too believe progress can only be made by closing the deficit, so I'm sure they will be willing to sign on. The real question will be why he won't be able to get the votes of the most conservative Republicans since his economic policy could have been written by the Heritage Foundation, his stand on social issues is, at best, evolving, and we are still in three wars. Who says American politics are tribal?
Who knows what the final deal will be? But keep in mind that whatever it is, it's a deal that both sides wanted. After all, there's nothing on the books or in the constitution that says there needs to be a deal at all. All they ever had to do is vote to raise the debt ceiling. And the leadership on both sides has said repeatedly that that will be done.