So what might an endgame look like in the war of sequestration?

If Obama wins, Democrats could try to improve their negotiating position by allowing sequestration to take effect and letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire — forcing Republicans into a corner on two top GOP priorities.

“Some people think the circumstances are better for a deal if you just let everything expire first,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow with the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution. “It makes a deal with Republicans on taxes a lot more feasible because it doesn’t have to be couched as tax increases.”

If Romney wins, Republicans also could improve their negotiating position by waiting until January — once they take control of the White House — to haggle with their Democratic counterparts.

“I would expect that the lame duck would not foreclose any options for President-elect Romney,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and an informal adviser to the Romney campaign.