Stan Collender suspects so:
Even though it will be one of the worst possible outcomes economically, It's hard to argue with the procedural simplicity of doing nothing because nothing would have to be debated, passed in the House and Senate, compromised or signed by the president. No votes, caucus meetings, press conferences or negotiating sessions. Chance of happening: 85%.
Jonathan Bernstein sees the cliff negotiations as political theater:
What is most likely is that everyone really knows that it’s easier to make a deal after January 1, but that no one wants to look as if they’re blocking it. In particular, once Obama flew back from Hawaii he needed something to do; that explains the White House meeting [today]. And once Obama was back, and with the Democratic Senate actually in session and conducting business, it was a potential public relations debacle to have the Republican House still enjoying their recess. So that explains the Sunday session.
Drum is on the same page:
[O]n January 1, taxes on the middle class go up and the economy slowly begins to slide into the great Republican Recession of 2013. That's the leverage that will finally force GOP leaders to get serious. Obama will never say so publicly, but I imagine he knows this perfectly well.