Though Boehner couldn’t get his caucus on record supporting a tax hike, his voter counters now have a much better idea of how many Republicans could get behind that approach.

That’s important because if Obama and Boehner strike a deal, he won’t need to deliver all the votes himself. An Obama-blessed package will win support from House Democrats, who opposed Plan B. Most Republican insiders believe Boehner only has to deliver about half his members to keep his speakership. …

The failed vote creates space for Boehner and Obama to restart negotiations. Both the House and Senate aren’t expected to take any more action on the cliff until after Christmas. …

As then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott used to say, the best time to cut a deal is when the Capitol is empty.

Despite all the overheated rhetoric, Obama and Boehner aren’t that far apart on the actual numbers. On the question of how much new revenue the government should bring in through higher taxes, the two are separated by $200 billion in a multi-trillion dollar deal. On spending cuts, the two are again only $200 billion apart, not an unbridgeable gulf.