TODAY   |  December 13, 2012

Both sides fall away from fiscal cliff compromise

The fiscal cliff standoff continues, with House Speaker John Boehner extinguishing any hints of progress in talks with President Obama; meanwhile, a new NBC/WSJ poll shows the public has tempered their second-term expectations of Obama . NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>> let's start with the standoff in washington and how to avoid the fiscal cliff. why are both sides now digging in and why can't they work out oo compromise? chuck todd is our correspondent.

>> one reason they can't describe the fiscal cliff talks as total disaster right now is that the two sides are still talking. they are very far apart. the public, they don't seem to have near the patience for this gridlock as they had before.

>> we've got some serious differences.

>> reporter: there's no end in sight to the fiscal cliff standoff today. house speaker john boehner threw cold water .

>> the longer the white house slow walks this discussion, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff.

>> the white house fired back insisting republicans are the ones being inflexible.

>> they have refused to accept the fundamental fact that the top 2% of earners in america are not going to have their tax cuts extended.

>> reporter: the two sides have been swapping proposals all week but still at odds. the president called boehner late tuesday attempting to save the talks. aides on both sides say it was a tense conversation. meanwhile the " wall street journal " shows an increasingly fed up public. they say their leaders must find a way to broker a deal. 79% of -- they want them to stick on taxes an entitlements.

>> we ask the wealthiest americans to pay a slightly higher tax rate .

>> reporter: the president does have an edge on the big issue of taxes. in our poll, 76% said they'd be willing to accept higher tax rates on wealthy including 61% of republicans. when asked who they trusted to handle the fiscal cliff, americans picked the president over speaker boehner by a 2 - 1 margin. if there's no deal, more folks would blame the republicans than the president. the real loser would be all of washington , as a large majority would blame both sides equally. right now, no planned meeting or talks today between the president and speaker boehner . maybe the one piece of good news this is president's schedule is completely empty today other than a hanukkah reception. so maybe something will happen.

>> let's talk about the key sticking points in these talks. according to the latest poll you just mentioned the majority of americans, 65% think president obama has a mandate to raise tasks on the wealthy but only 53% say they're optimistic about a second term for obama and 47% say they are pessimistic. is this really more pessimism about washington in general?

>> it is. you see it in the poll. funny, four years ago, you had the public in the wake of the historic election, the first african- american president , a majority of the country in december, right after that election thought the two parties would actually have a period of unity. they weren't naive but they thought 2009 would be a period of unity. four years later, this is a much less naive public, maybe let's put it that way, after they've watched all this in washington . a full 70% now think that the next year is going to be acrimonious. they're not optimistic a deal will get done. they seem to be split right down the middle. so, yes. this is really dangerous in the talks, i talked to one republican who said, how low can we go? we don't have a lot to lose. i pointed out but you would have a lot to gain because it's pretty low from the public's point of view.

>> chuck todd in washington . thank