* GOP has no endgame in payroll tax fight: At this point, it’s looking as if the most likely outcome is the one envisioned by Major Garrett: House Republicans cave and support the Senate’s two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, in exchange for an assurance that both sides will enter conference negotiations on a one-year extension before February 1st.

Perhaps the clearest sign of the GOP’s lack of an endgame in this battle is the Wall Street Journal’s absolutely blistering editorial tearing into Mitch McConnell and John Boehner for botching the politics of the payroll tax cut fight so badly. The Journal urges Boehner to hurry up and pass the extension before further damage is done.

“GOP leaders have somehow managed the remarkable feat of being blamed for opposing a one-year extension of a tax holiday that they are surely going to pass,” the Journal rages. “At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly.”

This demand that House Republicans embrace the inevitable is basically a concession that they have no leverage left in this fight. Polls suggest that Obama has effectively captured the moral high ground, and that the GOP is losing credibility on its signature issue of taxes. The number of Senate Republicans coming out against the House GOP’s handling of the issue continues to mount. While this could always change, there are no signs that Democrats will change course and agree to further negotiations, unless the House GOP passes the Senate plan. Obama and Dems are now convinced that the public has decided House Republicans are the only reason that taxes may go up on 160 million Americans in 10 days. And if the worst happens, Obama has a pretty big megaphone with which to amplify that case — even as the credibility of Congress and its leadership is swirling down the drain.

Not only that, but this battle dovetails perfectly with the larger story Dems have been trying to tell about the GOP’s true priorities — a narrative that will be absolutely central to Dem efforts to make the 2012 election about more than just the current state of the economy.

* House Republicans still think they can win: The GOP leadership’s view of the current impasse:

House Republicans, however, think it is Democrats who will be blamed for not working with the GOP on a deal to extend the break for a year. In their talking points Tuesday, they emphasized that a conference committee was the normal process for resolving differences between the two chambers.

* What Boehner hath wrought: But even neutral reporters are stating flatly that the House GOP may have run out of options. Rosalind Helderman and Paul Kane make the case:

Repeatedly, over the past year, he has allowed some of the most conservative members, particularly an influential group of freshmen, to call the shots at crucial moments. This time, Boehner and his leadership team may have allowed the House Republicans to place their party in real political peril with no obvious exit strategy.

* Is House GOP on the “brink”? Jennifer Steinhauer boils it down further: “The conservative House majority that has spent the year inciting combative legislative showdowns is now staring over the brink, standing fast against legislation with significant financial consequences for nearly every American household.”

Key takeaway: Here is one Congressional showdown to which the Ameican public is likely paying very close attention.

* Republicans play “Braveheart”: Dana Milbank skewers House Republicans for imagining that their epic struggle to squeeze as many concessions out of Dems in return for a tax cut on 160 million Americans is akin to “Braveheart”:

The Republicans are, if anything, in a reverse-“Braveheart” position: In this fight, they are the nobles putting down the overtaxed peasants. For another, the Scots they are emulating were defeated and slaughtered, and Wallace was captured (possibly betrayed by his own side), then drawn and quartered. That the House Republicans would embrace a doomed cause and its martyred leader gets at their main problem in the majority: They’d rather make a point than govern the country. And in this case, it’s not entirely clear what point they’re trying to make.

* Romney keeps up his Big Lie strategy: In a speech last night, Romney again repeated what is clearly becoming a central claim of his campaign: That Obama is trying to create a society in which “everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk.”

As always, reporters continue politely looking the other way while Romney tells lie, after lie, after lie. As I noted here yesterday, this latest lie is almost too big to fact check in a conventional way, and as a result, it contines to seep into the discourse without anyone pointing out how monstrous and absurd a falsehood it really is.

* Romney keeps up his Big Lie strategy, Part II: Bloomberg has a terrific takedown of one of the biggest falsehoods Romney and Newt Gingrich have been telling lately: That government is to blame for the economic meltdown.

As Bloomberg notes, their explanation for the crisis — that government played too heavy a role in the markets — is widely dismissed by economists and other people who actually know what they’re talking about. The key is that this claim is absolutely central to their entire rationale for running for president. If government is to blame for the crisis, then it stands to reason that government involvement in the private sector needs to be rolled back to levels that existed just before the crisis hit, right?

* But Romney is still the likely GOP nominee: Ross Douthat has a useful, if perhaps somewhat wishful, overview of the three most likely scenarios in the GOP primary. The reality check is that even if Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul win Iowa, they are all but certain to fizzle over the long haul.

* Obama reelect reality check of the day: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Romney is running slightly better than Obama in Virginia, and 51 percent of voters in the state disapprove of his performance.

Virginia may end up being important to Obama’s reelection chances; his travails among blue collar whites in the Rust Belt may increase the pressure on him to hold new south states he won in 2008.

* And Ron Paul, spoiler: Peter Wallsten has a must-read on the GOP establishment’s realization that Ron Paul has built up enough of an organization and a following to upend the nomination fight and mount a third party bid that could make a GOP victory in 2012 all but impossible. GOP leaders are particularly worried about Paul’s refusal to rule out such a bid, and appear to be viewing it as a real possibililty.

What else is happening?