Vice President Joe Biden is exploring a possible challenge to former first lady Hillary Clinton, who some fear is in a weakened position in the Democratic presidential contest. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

THE BIG IDEA by Paul Kane: So, just how much time does Joe Biden really have to decide whether to enter the Democratic presidential race?

Officially, the vice president’s advisers say he will decide by “the end of summer” whether to run. To be clear, that means the actual changing of the seasons, Sept. 23, not Labor Day weekend. Biden stoked more intrigue over the weekend when he  made an unplanned trip to Washington to huddle in his residence with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who progressive activists would’ve liked to draft into the Democratic contest.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday night that Biden was “leaning toward” a run if  “it is still possible he can knit together a competitive campaign at this late date, people familiar with the matter said.” Meanwhile, Biden chose Kate Bedingfield — a former spokeswoman for John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign — as his new White House communications director. Bedingfield was vice president for corporate communications at the Motion Picture Association of America.

Many observers think he’s already too late. Recent history has not been kind to late-entry candidates (Rick Perry, August 2011; Fred Thompson, early September 2007; Wesley Clark, mid-September 2003). None of them, however, were a sitting vice president with universal name recognition. So, we wait for Biden.

There are several key events, however, that will force action. The first Democratic debate is Oct. 13, and Biden has a standing invite, but only if he’s an announced candidate by then.

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The next big target dates: Nov. 9-Dec. 31. That is when the first deadlines arrive for getting on primary ballots, starting with Arkansas. Texas’s filing process starts a couple days later and concludes Dec. 14. And through the rest of November and December come 11 more ballot deadlines, including the all-important vote in New Hampshire (Nov. 27 deadline) and massive states with a huge delegate hauls at stake such as Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and Virginia.

So, logistically speaking, early November is the drop-dead, latest point anyone could get into the race and assure ballot access in all critical states.

Some Democrats believe Biden’s best bet is to see how Hillary Clinton performs in Iowa and New Hampshire; if her scandals have left her critically wounded, Biden could jump in then. Just one problem there: time.

By Feb. 9, New Hampshire primary day, the filing deadline will have passed for most states. There would be enough time to only enter primaries in a dozen states and about eight caucuses. Those are some massive states – including New York, California, Pennsylvania – but it would be statistically impossible to win the nomination entering the race at that late stage.

The best Biden could hope for in that scenario would be to win enough late states, by big margins, to keep Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or any other insurgent from winning enough delegates to secure the nomination, forcing a brokered convention in Philadelphia in August.

Given those logistical hurdles, that’s why the best answer to the initial question is pretty much Biden’s own answer: end of summer. If not sooner.

Programming Note: James Hohmann returns tomorrow.

LATEST TRUMP:

  • Trump thinks Biden and Clinton are “the same” in terms of a challenge to him in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.
  • On CBS’ Face the Nation, Trump said he will take donations to his campaign but not from lobbyists or special interests. He added that he would force hedge fund managers to pay more in taxes because they “are getting away with murder.”
  • When pressed about the estimated $400-600 billion cost of deporting undocumented immigrants, Trump said he would use “management” instead of  a “bunch of political hacks” appointed by President Obama.
  • The New York Times reported that Trump may be more than a summer fling, to the chagrin of Republican Party leaders. The businessman “has built a broad, demographically and ideologically diverse coalition, constructed around personality, not substance, that bridges demographic and political divides. In doing so, he has effectively insulated himself from the consequences of startling statements that might instantly doom rival candidates,” the paper wrote, pointing out that Trump leads among Republican women, evangelical Christians, moderates and college-educated voters. He also leads among likely and frequent voters.
  • Gabriel Sherman at New York magazine says Trump plans to go “all the way,” in the businessman’s own words, predicting that a losing Trump will be far more dangerous and erratic than a winning one. Sherman reports that Trump blames Jeb for his problems with Univision. “‘Trump believes it all goes back to Jeb,’ the friend says. ‘He thinks Jeb and his wife, Columba, are close with [Mexican billionaire] Carlos Slim and Univision got pressure from Slim operatives.’ In a move that further confirmed Trump’s suspicions, Univision has hired Miguel Estrada, a Washington lawyer with deep Bush ties.”
  • …BUT, the online marketplace Predictit shows Trump trading lower than Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush among those willing to put money behind who will be the next POTUS.

Then, there was this tweet from media mogul Rupert Murdoch on Sunday night:


French President, Francois Hollande,  National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, U.S. Ambassador to France Jane D. Hartley, U.S. Airman Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler, a senior at Sacramento University in California as they leave the Elysee Palace in Paris after being awarded with the French Legion of Honor by French President, Francois Hollande, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— French President Francois Hollande on Monday knighted the Americans who stopped the gunman aboard a Paris-bound train. At the Elysee Palace, Hollande said the Americans deserved France’s highest honor (the Chevaliers of the Legion of Honor) because they had “shown that in the face of terror, you can resist,” identifying the gunman for the first time as Ayoub el-Kazaani. The Americans — Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone; Specialist Alek Skarlatos; and childhood friend Anthony Sadler — said they moved to the first-class train car at the last minute because Wifi where they were wasn’t working, a twist of fate that saved many lives. Meanwhile, Europe pondered security at “soft targets” like trains, especially when el-Kazaani, a Moroccan, was known to authorities in France and Spain.

— Global stocks fell sharply overnight, led by a sell-off in China. The Shanghai Daily Composite lost 8.5% of its value, erasing its gains for the year in the biggest drop since February 2007. The decline is being triggered by fears of a weaker Chinese economy following the recent devaluation of the yuan. European stocks followed suit, with London’s FTSE 100 falling 2.05% and Germany’s DAX slipping 2.29%, the New York Times reported. Standard & Poors futures trading indicated a bad day on Wall Street, the NYT added.

GET SMART FAST:

  1. A Quinnipiac poll on the issues in swing states Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio released Monday finds that by a 2-1 margin, voters oppose the Iran nuclear pact. In what could be a troubling sign for Hillary Clinton or Biden, if he enters the race, the poll finds that voters in Florida (71 – 26 percent), Ohio (72-26 percent) and Pennsylvania (74 to 24 percent) overwhelmingly don’t want another four years of President Obama. Meanwhile, voters in those states oppose defunding Planned Parenthood, support allowing undocumented immigrants to stay in the country (with a path to citizenship) and want the U.S. to send ground troops to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS.
  2. Meanwhile, Obama continued to pile up support for the Iran nuclear deal as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “forcefully” announced his support for it, in a phone call with the Post’s Paul Kane. “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure the deal stands,” Reid said, becoming the 27th Senate Democrat to back the plan, with only two Senate Dems — Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) — opposing it.
  3. ISIS militants destroyed a temple at the historic Palmyra ruins in Syria. The group detonated explosives around the Temple of Baalshamin, close to a Roman ampitheater where it recently held a mass execution. The action comes on the heels of the recent beheading of the site’s chief antiquities scholar. ISIS believes anything built before Islam’s birth represents paganism.

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) can continue to run for both president and 2016 Senate reelection after the Kentucky GOP state central committee replaced its primary with a caucus over the weekend. In Kentucky, candidate is prohibited from appearing on the ballot for two different offices.
  2. Dennis Hastert has drawn prosecutor Diane McArthur, who tried the 15-count heroin smuggling case against Piper Kerman, the woman whose story became the basis for the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.”
  3. Scott Walker is not sticking to a position on birthright citizenship, saying he won’t change the Constitution to alter the 14th Amendment. That’s after earlier in the week saying he wanted to abolish birthright citizenship, then appearing to reverse his position.
  4. GOP Sens. Pat Roberts (Kan.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling “preposterous” the idea of transferring inmates from Guantanamo prison camp to the United States. They’re concerned about recent visits by Defense Department officials to facilities in their states.
  5. Deez Nuts, the 15-year old rising Iowa sophomore high school student otherwise known as Brady Olson, has endorsed John Kasich (R) and Bernie Sanders (D) in their respective primaries. His endorsement goes to, well, himself, in the general election.
  6. Ex-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson endorsed Hillary Clinton, saying he and the Clintons patched up their differences (they were on the outs over Richardson’s endorsement of Obama over Hillary in 2008).
  7. Former President Jimmy Carter taught Sunday school to record crowds of more than 700 in Plains, Ga,. following the disclosure of his illness last week.

Sen. Ted Cruz will take on a leading role in the fight to defund Planned Parenthood, attempting to mobilize evangelicals — a key constituency in the crowded GOP presidential field. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

Cruz’s evangelical outreach shifts into high gear,” by Katie Zezima and Tom Hamburger: “Sen. Ted Cruz, who has assiduously courted evangelicals throughout his presidential run, will take a lead role in the launch this week of an ambitious 50-state campaign to end taxpayer support for Planned Parenthood — a move that is likely to give the GOP candidate a major primary-season boost in the fierce battle for social-conservative and evangelical voters…More than 100,000 pastors received e-mail invitations over the weekend to participate in conference calls with Cruz on Tuesday in which they will learn details of the plan to mobilize churchgoers in every congressional district beginning Aug. 30…Roughly 1 in 4 voters have identified themselves as evangelical in exit polls from the 2004 campaign on. In key Republican primaries such as Iowa, and in some of the Southern states that Cruz has said are critical to his run, that figure was higher during the last presidential campaign — nearly 50 percent.”

–“Why Come Fall, Democrats will Need Republicans on Capitol Hill,” by Kelsey Snell: “Republicans may control both the House and Senate, but any hope of enacting spending bills laden with conservative priorities — like defunding Planned Parenthood and Obamacare — will almost certainly die when budget negotiations begin in earnest later this year. That’s because the hardening reality on Capitol Hill is that for GOP leaders to avoid government shutdowns or debt defaults they need to rely on Democratic votes in both chambers. And the minority party isn’t about to lend its support to bills containing policies it strongly opposes.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Pictures of the day:

Giant panda Mei Xiang delivered two cubs at the National Zoo over the weekend. Here’s a photo of the second during an examination:

Actress Ellen Page confronted Ted Cruz on gay rights at the Iowa State Fair. Watch the video here:

Over at Nats’ Park, Teddy Roosevelt hopped in the back of a flat-bed truck for the first part of the Presidents Race. But did he win? Watch the video here:

The Curiosity Mars Rover took a selfie in this snapshot released by NASA:

Tweets of the day: Lawmakers celebrated the birth of two new panda cubs at the National Zoo, one with a Donald Trump dig thrown in:

Vice President Biden congratulated Americans who helped stop a gunman on a Paris-bound train:

Jeb Bush and Donald Trump traded attacks on Twitter:

Trump later claimed a record number of attendees at his Alabama rally:

Instagrams of the day:

Scott Walker drove the track at the Talladega Superspeedway in Lincoln, Ala.:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had luck fishing the Provo River:

Chris Christie tended bar at Jalapeno Pete’s at the Iowa State Fair:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— New York Times, “From Whitewater to Email, the Clintons dogged lawyer,” by Peter Baker: “Today, the object of concern for David E. Kendall is a tiny thumb drive that sat in a safe at his law firm until a couple weeks ago before attracting the attention of Congress, the F.B.I. and the news media…The latest furor has put Mr. Kendall under a spotlight in a way that discomfits the tight-lipped and camera-shy lawyer. From Mrs. Clinton’s foes come public questions about why he had the thumb drive containing her email and whether he secured it properly. From Mrs. Clinton’s friends come private questions about whether he has managed the situation effectively and whether he should be more outspoken to protect a Democratic presidential candidate leading in the polls…Mr. Kendall, said Mr. [James] Carville, is not a public pit bull. ‘He has no bluster about him,’ Mr. Carville said. ‘He’s aggressive, but he doesn’t have an in-your-face kind of thing about him. I don’t think he views that as his role. The chances that he’s going to talk to the press are way beyond remote.’

— USATODAY, “Attack on Iran Could Set Back Bomb Effort Two Years,” by Tom Vanden Brook: “U.S. airstrikes aimed at Iran’s nuclear facilities would likely set back the regime’s quest for a weapon by one or two years and require waves of attacks spearheaded by the ultra-heavy conventional bomb known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, according to military officials and experts…A U.S. attack on Iran, according to two officers involved in planning and several others interviewed for this story, requires more than pinpoint strikes against that country’s nuclear facilities. It could spawn retaliatory attacks in the Persian Gulf if Iran retaliates by attempting to choke off shipping.”

— The Atlantic, “Where Pope Francis Learned Humanity,” by Paul Vallely: “It’s a new normal: Francis has presented himself to the world as an icon of simplicity and humility, eschewing papal limousines and the grand Apostolic Palace, and instead being driven in a Ford Focus and living in the Vatican guesthouse. But being simple can be a complex business if you are the leader of one of the world’s largest religious denominations and also a head of state. And Francis’s life story shows that humility is not an innate quality of his, but a calculated religious, and sometimes political, choice…In response to these cleavages within the Argentine Jesuit community, Jesuit leaders in Rome eventually decided to strip Bergoglio, then 50, of all responsibility. In 1990, he was sent to Cordoba to live in the Jesuit residence, pray, and work on his doctoral thesis. But he was not permitted to say Mass in public in the Jesuit church…In 1992, when Bergoglio returned to Buenos Aires as auxiliary bishop, he had totally remodeled his approach to being a leader.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Bernie Sanders criticizes ‘greedy’ Koch brothers. From the Associated Press: “Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is making the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch the face of a ‘corrupted’ political and economic system that the Vermont senator wants to upend. Sanders delighted a South Carolina rally of more than 3,000 people Saturday with his assertions that the Kochs and other ‘greedy’ billionaires are destroying American democracy by infusing huge sums of cash into campaigns and election.”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Cruz outshines Bush at Americans for Prosperity summit. From the Associated Press: “Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the hands-down favorite of the Americans for Prosperity annual summit in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend, if the number and volume of ovations during the speeches of five presidential candidates who addressed the annual convention of tea party activists was the measure.  At the other end of the spectrum was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a newcomer to events financed by conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Scott Walker, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson will speak at Congressman Jeff Duncan’s fifth annual Faith & Freedom BBQ fundraiser in Anderson, S.C. Walker will also campaign in Fort Mill and Spartanburg, S.C. Chris Christie will hold a town hall in Salem, N.H. Mike Huckabee will hold a media availability in Little Rock, Ark.

–On the Hill: Both chambers are in recess.

–At the White House: President Obama will be the keynote speaker at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I think all things are possible, but it’s much too early to begin such conversations,” Ben Carson on being open to becoming Donald Trump’s running mate should the businessman win the GOP nod.

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

–“With the exception of today, when humidity inches into the uncomfortable range and a late day storm is possible, the week ahead promises to be exceptional. From Tuesday to Sunday, sunshine rules, humidity ranges from low to moderate, and high temperatures mostly hold in the 80s,” the Capital Weather Gang reports.

–The Nationals beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 9-5, at home, but Jayson Werth says they know they “have to get hot” to make the playoffs in the season’s remaining 40 games.

RGIII returned to practice on Sunday less than 72 hours after suffering a concussion. The plan is for him to play  on Saturday at Baltimore, said coach Jay Gruden.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Watch the moments that the two panda cubs were born, via the National Zoo’s Instagram feed. Video of the first cub’s examination by zookeepers is available here.

Watch the music video for “Feel the Bern,” a rap song dedicated to Bernie Sanders’s presidential bid:

Watch video posted on Twitter of the scene on the Paris-bound train after Americans stopped a gunman:


( @Meguini )

( @Meguini )

Correction: This story was updated to say that it would cost an estimated $400 billion to $600 billion, not million, to deport undocumented immigrants.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect filing deadline for getting on the primary ballot in Texas. The deadline is Dec. 14.