In a campaign-style event Monday in Michigan, the heart of industrial America, Obama warned that he "won't compromise" on his demand that the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes. Polls find that most voters agree with the president's deficit-cutting plan to raise tax rates on income over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples, although House Republicans are reluctant to agree.
The conservative group Crossroads GPS is running television ads across the country describing Obama's solution as "a huge tax increase" with "no real spending reforms." ''Call President Obama and tell him it's time to show us a balanced plan," the ad says.
Most voters interviewed in recent days are calling for an immediate compromise and seem willing to raise taxes on the wealthy so long as the middle class is protected.
There is a vague sense that the "fiscal cliff" is more serious than other recent Capitol Hill clashes. But barely a month after the presidential contest ended, most people say they're not following the daily developments that consume Washington.
In a Denver coffee shop, interior designer Roxann Lloyd, 42, is mystified by the sound and fury out of Washington over the cliff.
"I don't think they have any idea what a big deal is to an average person," she said. "I'm just ignoring it."
Lloyd said she isn't surprised by the partisan bickering over the issue. "I don't feel like they are really looking out for us," she said of Congress.
John Baker, 65, a Denver psychologist, said he had little faith in Congress' ability to fix the problem: "I don't think Congress can fix a flat tire."
"It's a typical Washington, 'Let's hit the panic button and keep people scared so they will let us do what we want to do,'" Baker said in a downtown Denver Starbucks. "Ultimately, it will be fixed but not until a lot of pockets are lined."
It's unclear whether members of Congress are hearing the message.
Rep. Charlie Bass, a New Hampshire Republican who lost his re-election bid last month, says it's unclear whether his GOP colleagues will "face the reality that the president, at least at this point, is not going to accept anything other than a tax rate increase."
A stalemate would result in "painful uncertainty," Bass said, offering his caucus a bit of advice: "We best get on with it — get it done."
Back at Robie's, store owner Debbie Chouinard says she's burned out from election season and "tired of all the bull."
"I honestly haven't been paying attention," she said while feeding her 2-year-old granddaughter lunch during a brief lull. "People should be working together to get this country going."
Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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