Landrieu is worried because the 2014 Senate map looks almost as bad as the 2012 map did for Democrats. The senator will likely be challenged by two-term congressman Bill Cassidy or perhaps even Governor Bobby Jindal, although the latter may be more interested in a run for the presidency in 2016. There are at least 10 vulnerable Democratic Senate seats going into 2014, and since neither party is covering themselves in glory during the fiscal cliff debate, Democratic senators don’t want the backwash from a failed deal to hit them as they go into campaign mode next year.

Politics aside, there is the economy to consider, and taking hundreds of dollars a month out of the paychecks of the average American by not keeping the middle class tax rates in order could prove to be a disaster if no deal can be reached for several months. And while blame will likely fall mostly on Republicans, Democrats are not going to reap much in the way of a reward because voters will rightly see all parties bearing some of the blame anyway.

Harry Reid knows this, which is why the most likely scenario now is an up-or-down vote on a much-reduced fiscal cliff package:

On Saturday, Reid and McConnell traded a flurry of offers, but sources close to the talks said they were still far apart from a deal. They plan to continue to negotiate through Sunday before briefing their respective caucuses in the afternoon. If no deal is reached, Reid will put a plan on the floor on Monday to raise taxes on families who earn more than $250,000, extend jobless benefits, patch the Alternative Minimum Tax and prevent doctors who service Medicare patients from seeing their payments slashed.

But Republicans said Saturday they doubted such a plan could pass the House, meaning Congress could very well conclude the year’s session without a deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

If this were an episode of 24, Jack Bauer would dramatically break into the room where Reid and McConnell are negotiating and torture them until they came to a deal. “There’s no time!” Bauer would exclaim over and over again.

In that, Bauer can be forgiven for understating his case.

More: Senator Graham on Obama Cliff Stand: ‘He Won’