Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in the Capitol yesterday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

THE BIG IDEA: 

Paul Ryan is seriously considering a bid for House speaker. He’s consulting his wife, Janna, and should make a definitive decision soon, according to top GOP sources.

Despite repeatedly and sincerely insisting he doesn’t want the job, the Wisconsin congressman is under intense and increasing pressure from all corners of the House Republican Conference to assume a position that puts him second in the presidential line of succession.

That includes public support from Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader who shocked Washington by abruptly withdrawing from the speaker’s race yesterday, and private support from John Boehner, who had two long phone conversations with Ryan after the McCarthy bombshell. The current speaker told Ryan that he’s the only person who can now unite the House GOP.

Republicans have their largest House majority since 1930, but they are struggling to use it because of persistent internecine warfare. Ryan may not be able to solve the underlying divide between the pragmatists and ideologues, but there is consensus from Joe Scarborough to Bill O’Reilly that he’s got a better chance than pretty much everyone else.

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How Ryan got from “no” to “no comment”: The Ways and Means Committee chairman issued a statement reiterating that he would not run within 20 minutes of McCarthy’s announcement. But he began wavering as the day went on. In the afternoon, Ryan’s aides canceled all of his fundraising and political events for the next 48 hours. The Wisconsin Republican was scheduled to speak downtown last night at a book party for a new biography of Jack Kemp, but he didn’t show.

At 6:30 p.m., Ryan emerged from his ceremonial office a few steps from the House floor and declined to state his plans. “I’ve got no news for you guys,” Ryan said, exiting the Capitol. “I’ve got nothing to add right now. … This is not the time or place, guys.” He added, “You guys are asking all these interesting questions but I don’t have any interesting answers for you right now.”

Ryan was set to give the nominating speech for McCarthy yesterday morning; last night, McCarthy endorsed Ryan for the job instead: “I think (Paul) is the best one to bring us together,” McCarthy told The Post’s Robert Costa, who also broke the news about Boehner calling Ryan. “Paul Ryan has the cachet. They know of his brain work, they know he has a national following. He just has the respect.”


Kevin McCarthy, with wife Judy, explains his decision to withdraw from the speaker’s race. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

— RYAN WORLD MINDMELD:

Why he says he doesn’t want the speaker’s gavel: The congressman claims that the burdensome schedule, including the demands of traveling the country to raise money, would make it harder for him to spend weekends with his three school-age children living in Janesville, Wisc. That, of course, did not stop him from accepting the job of Mitt Romney’s running-mate when his kids were three years younger than they are now…And it’s not like his current job is a cake walk. He still does quite a lot of dialing for dollars.

What’s really behind this Hamlet act: Taking the job requires that Ryan gamble his political future on his own ability to break the fever gripping House Republicans. Though he’s been in Congress for 17 years, Ryan is only 45-years-old. That means he has another two or three decades on the national stage, if he plays his cards right. Ryan wants to take the lead in writing tax reform with the next Republican White House. He’s also never actually held an elected leadership position, so it’s not clear that he can herd cats; he likes to devise policy, something that’s not really part of the speaker’s job description.

Ryan could still run for president again down the road, whether 2020, 2024 or even 2032. Remember: Bob Dole was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1976, returned to the Senate after losing and didn’t win the GOP nomination until 20 years later. Ryan could also easily become the next Treasury secretary. If he becomes speaker, he puts all of that at risk. He could alienate the right and get deposed. He could be ineffective. And no matter what, he will be more closely identified with Washington dysfunction. It would be impossible to ever run as an “outsider” again.

Only one Speaker has ever gone on to become president: James K. Polk. Repeating that feat seems impossible in modern-day politics.

Who knows how long Ryan could last, even if he made few self-inflicted errors. Tip O’Neill was the last speaker to retire in good standing and entirely on his own terms. That was three decades ago.

Ryan benefits from a track record of self-discipline: After Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl announced his retirement in May 2011, there was pretty heavy pressure on Ryan to run for the open seat. He took a pass, upsetting some conservatives in the Badger State. But the move paid off handsomely: a little over a year later, he was his party’s vice presidential nominee. If he’d run for the upper chamber, not only would most Americans not know Ryan’s name but he could have lost to Tammy Baldwin.

— CAN RYAN RESIST A GROWING CHORUS OF VOICES ACROSS THE GOP URGING HIM TO GET IN? For now, playing hard to get is only whipping conservative thought leaders and lawmakers into a bigger frenzy. For the good of the party and the country, as they say…

National Review has two unnamed Republican sources saying that Ryan has in fact “already made up his mind to jump in” the race. “The only Republican who does not want Paul Ryan to become the next House speaker, it seems, is Paul Ryan,” Rich Lowry, Joel Gehrke and Alexis Levinson write. “Ryan is the only member of the Republican conference who it seems could command broad support. He is the undisputed intellectual leader of the group and, as a former vice-presidential nominee, has proven that he can survive — and thrive — in the glare of the national spotlight.”

Other conservative commentators expressed confidence that he will enter the race:

The Wall Street Journal editorial board declares this morning that “Ryan might be the only man who can stop GOP self-destruction,” warning that Democrats might even retake the House if he does not rise to the occasion: “Working with a Republican President in 2017, he would be a consequential Speaker. In a more high-profile role, he could also better steer Republicans away from the anti-growth economics that is on the rise as the Trump-Cruz faction turns not merely against immigration but also free trade and entitlement reform.”

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough says Ryan does not have a choice but to run: “I think for this time and this place, not only for the Republican party but also the conservative movement that can’t afford to lose the White House, Paul Ryan will have to step up. … At the end of the day, it is a question of: do you trust the person that’s leading you not to make quick deals just so they won’t have negative articles in the New York Times opinions page? There is not another person like Paul that can step up and step into this position at this point in time. I really don’t think he has much of a choice.”

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly says “Ryan has got to wise up and get in there.” On the air, he said: “Everybody else who is going to be considered: A) The public doesn’t know them. B) There is an ideological bent here, which doesn’t do anybody any good because you want to pass laws, right? You don’t want to make policy because that is what happens at the other levels.” Video via Breitbart.

Senior National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru says Ryan has enough credibility with the base: “Many of the Republicans who were against Boehner and McCarthy would listen to him, and trust him to listen to them,” he writes in a Bloomberg View column. “They sometimes disagree with him, but they trust that he is in politics because of conservative ideas. No other House Republican has the same reservoir of goodwill. No other House Republican is considered as good a spokesman on such politically perilous issues as entitlement reform. That’s why, with him absent from the race, Republicans have no clear path forward.”

The American Spectator’s Aaron Goldstein, an establishment hater, says Ryan has proven he has the backbone to stand up to President Obama: “Now some of you might say, ‘Hey! He supported Kevin McCarthy for Speaker!’ … Yet let us not forget the look on Obama’s face when Ryan explained health care policy to him at the Health Care Summit in February 2010. … Although we don’t have a parliamentary system here in the United States, when the party that controls Congress is different from the party that controls the White House, Congress has to become an official opposition of sorts. If we did have a parliamentary system in this country and Republicans chose a leader of the official opposition, I think Ryan would be best suited to this task.”

Talk radio host Hugh Hewitt: 

Support from a fellow Badger Stater: 

REALITY CHECK – Despite the draft effort, Ryan could still quickly run into a base buzz saw. Paul Mirengoff on the influential Powerline blog writes that, on non-budgetary issues: “It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish Ryan from a bleeding-heart liberal.” He attacks him for supporting comprehensive immigration and criminal justice reform: “To the extent that House conservatives remain committed to fighting against amnesty and to sustaining the sentencing rules that helped produce a 50 percent reduction in the national rate of serious crime in the past two decades, they should be more opposed to Ryan than they are to the current leaders.”

Others noted Ryan’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, which some on the hard-core right are now calling ObamaTrade: 

— WHAT IF RYAN DOESN’T RUN? Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster are both still in the race, but neither is taken seriously as a front-runner. Costa has more on the state of play:

  • Several conservatives suggested House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), a former member of the Boehner leadership team, as a contender. For his part, Hensarling is publicly backing Ryan.
  • Other names mentioned are Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chair of the Benghazi committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), head of the House Freedom Caucus. But Gowdy also said he is backing Ryan and Jordan said he doesn’t want the job.
  • Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who preceded Chaffetz as chairman of the Oversight Committee, was also said to be considering a bid.
  • Establishment-aligned forces floated Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a respected former House GOP campaign chairman, as a calming presence.
  • Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said he is considering a run and told a group of colleagues in a conference call that his experience in the state legislature prepared him.
  • Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who were already running for lower leadership spots should McCarthy have ascended, were encouraged to seek the speakership but seem inclined to stay put.
  • Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) also mulled his options. So did Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the party’s highest-ranking woman, and House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.). But they don’t seem ready to make the leap.

Daniel Webster speaks to reporters after leaving the nomination meeting yesterday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— Ted Cruz had a strong quarter while Marco Rubio underperformed: The Texas senator raised $12.2 million in the 3rd quarter, dwarfing the Florida senator’s $6 million haul. Rubio’s team downplayed the bad number at a Las Vegas donor retreat, saying that a slow summer ended in a better September after the second debate and as Jeb Bush continued to fade. Rubio had $11 million in the bank, reflecting an impressively low burn rate, while Cruz didn’t disclose his cash on hand. Counting the money raised for his super PAC, a total of $64.5 million was collected for Cruz’s candidacy, behind only Jeb Bush’s $105.4 million (Jeb hasn’t disclosed his 3rd quarter donations to his campaign). Rubio’s combined total puts in him in third place with $51.2 million. Ben Carson previously reported raising $20.2 million in Q3.

Four Tunisian civil society groups won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning in Stockholm. The National Dialogue Quartet includes the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. Together, the groups have pushed persistently for democratic reforms in the wake of the country’s Jasmine Revolution in 2011.

Police say one person is dead and three more are wounded after a shooting at Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff campus early this morning. The shooter is in custody. ABC: “It’s unclear what sparked the shooting, which took place near Mountain View Hall, a dormitory which houses most of the campus’ students involved in Greek organizations.”


Joe Biden speaks at the American Job Creation and Infrastructure Forum in D.C. Thursday. (Pete Marovich/Bloomberg News)

— Biden representatives met with Democratic National Committee staffers to get briefed “on arcane but crucial rules that the vice president would need to understand if he decides to run,” the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reported late last night: “It was the most significant sign the source had seen to indicate Biden’s intentions. ‘I think it means he’s running,’ the source said. The D.N.C. offered the meeting to Biden earlier this year, and the party committee was scheduled to brief his aides back in June, but that meeting was cancelled. When the meeting was finally held this week, D.N.C. staffers walked Biden’s representatives through the primary calendar, filing deadlines, the mechanics of ballot-access issues, and the complicated details of the party’s state-by-state selection process for delegates and super delegates.”

Per Lizza: “The D.N.C. source, who was briefed on the meeting, said that the information conveyed seemed eye-opening for Biden’s aides. ‘They probably thought they had a lot longer,’ the source said. ‘The deadlines for qualifying on the ballots for key states haven’t passed yet, but are fast approaching.’”

Meanwhile, the Draft Biden super PAC announced that it will take down the 90-second commercial urging him to run. Someone close to the VP complained to the Los Angeles Times that it was in poor taste and “treads on sacred ground.” The group quickly responded: “Nobody has more respect for the Vice President and his family than we do. Obviously we will honor his wishes.” Josh Alcorn, a senior adviser to Draft Biden, the super PAC, said in a statement.

GET SMART FAST:

  1. The family of Walter Scott, the black South Carolina man shot and killed by a police officer now facing murder charges, reached a $6.5 million settlement with the city of North Charleston. They plan to donate some of the money for flood relief, according to USA Today.
  2. Several cruise missiles fired from Russian ships at targets in Syria malfunctioned and crashed in Iran, killing a number of cows, the Pentagon said. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
  3. Several of Hillary’s top aides at State are still talking up the TPP, even though she flipped on it. (David Nakamura)
  4. House Republicans on the Benghazi Committee said they plan to release a tranche of emails received from the State Department that show Sid Blumenthal offering advice to Secretary Clinton on Libya in 2011. (Elise Viebeck)
  5. One of the three Americans who helped stop an armed gunman aboard a Paris-bound train in August, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, was stabbed repeatedly in the torso early Thursday morning in an altercation between his friends and another group of people in Sacramento. He was found bleeding with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening but very significant, the police said. They are still investigating the attack, which stemmed from a verbal altercation at a bar, per Dan Lamothe.
  6. The Washington Post and Univision will host the final Democratic presidential debate in Miami. The debate, sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee, will be held March 9. (Katie Zezima)
  7. SKDKnickerbocker, the PR firm, is being bought by Mark Penn’s new firm, per Politico.

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. Jeb ripped into Rubio for voting against giving Obama the power to intervene militarily in Syria in 2013. (Interview with Hugh Hewitt)
  2. Ben Carson said on CNN that Adolf Hitler’s mass murder of Jews “would have been greatly diminished” if German citizens had not been disarmed by the Nazi regime. The candidate’s campaign manager told ABC News that these constant Hitler analogies are probably “too powerful” and he will tone them down because, “as soon as you say Hitler, nobody hears anything else you say.” (Vanessa Williams)
  3. Al Kamen’s final story appears in today’s Post. He wrote 2,700 “In the Loop” columns since taking on the feature in 1992. We’ll miss you, Al!

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:


Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters Thursday. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

THE MCCARTHY TICK TOCK — What drove the surprise announcement? Via Mike DeBonis, Robert Costa and David A. Fahrenthold:

The votes weren’t there: “McCarthy could afford to lose only 29 of 247 Republicans when the full House voted at the end of the month. Yesterday’s internal vote was a crucial test of his strength. In his internal projections, he wasn’t getting what he needed. “I knew I could get 200-and-some votes. But getting 218 was not easy,” McCarthy said in an interview last night. That meant McCarthy needed to win over some of the House’s professional “no” votes, the same conservatives who had defied him and Boehner in votes over the debt limit, the “fiscal cliff” and the federal budget. This was a job McCarthy had never been good at. He was a walking personification of the problem that had felled Boehner — a human symbol of the GOP’s inability to keep order.”

The Freedom Caucus made impossible demands: “The night before the vote, a group of 30 to 40 of the chamber’s most conservative members promised to throw its weight behind Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.). McCarthy had made his pitch in a third-floor ballroom at the Capitol Hill Club. He laid out plans to create a “kitchen cabinet” consisting of leaders drawn from conservative groups such as the Freedom Caucus. … But they wanted him to make specific promises. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), the leader of the House Tea Party Caucus, asked McCarthy to publicly oppose efforts by establishment groups — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others — to run radio and TV ads criticizing conservatives who defied their own leaders. McCarthy would not commit to a public pledge.”

The Benghazi gaffe: McCarthy said that was “part of the decision.”

There were also rumors: Some also questioned whether McCarthy was chased from the race by a letter sent by Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the Republican conference. In the letter, Jones called for any leadership candidate who had committed ‘misdeeds’ since joining Congress to drop out of the running.’ McCarthy insisted the letter played no role in his decision. ‘Nah, nah. Come on,’ he told a reporter who asked about it.”

THE NARRATIVE—”The GOP sinks deeper into chaos,” by Karen Tumulty: “Less than a year after a sweeping electoral triumph, Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national political party. The most powerful and crippling force at work in the once-hierarchical GOP is anger, directed as much at its own leaders as anywhere else. … Disappointed in their ability to follow through on their campaign promises to turn back President Obama’s policies, (members who came in with the tea party wave) trained their fire on their own commanders.

  • “Contempt for compromise has undermined the Republicans’ drive to prove that they can actually govern.” As Trent Lott said, “This hell-no caucus — the degree of purity that they’re looking for doesn’t exist.”
  • “Government experience has become a liability for Republicans, rather than a credential.” It should come as no surprise to anyone that Donald Trump, in Las Vegas, took credit for felling McCarthy.
  • An institutional crisis: “Junior members of Congress no longer have to seek the favor of more senior ones to rise through the ranks. Modern media has given them the power to play to a national audience — as Ted Cruz has demonstrated. Changes in campaign finance laws have made the parties themselves less powerful, and ideologically driven outside groups more so.

Obama weighs expanding background checks through executive authority,” by Juliet Eilperin: “In response to the latest mass shooting during his presidency, President Obama is seriously considering circumventing Congress with his executive authority and imposing new background-check requirements for buyers who purchase weapons from high-volume gun dealers. … Under the proposed rule change, dealers who exceed a certain number of sales each year will be required to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and perform background checks on potential buyers.”

  • Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) wonder if there is enough bipartisan backing to revive their failed 2013 background check effort. “Neither Manchin nor Toomey has committed to reintroducing their proposal and the furthest either has gone toward a commitment to revive it is Manchin saying Thursday that ‘I think we intend to do that, hopefully,'” reports PowerPost’s Karoun Demirjian. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats unveiled a new campaign yesterday to try building a “groundswell” of support behind three gun control principles — improved background checks, closing loopholes and shutting down “straw purchasing” and other illegal gun trafficking — as a precursor to filing comprehensive legislation. But such legislation will be dead on arrival in the GOP Senate.
  • Gabby Giffords unveiled a new initiative aimed at curbing gun violence against women and families. “The Women’s Coalition for Common Sense will feature a national advisory committee that includes former secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, and actresses Connie Britton and Alyssa Milano, among others,” per USA Today.

Ann Romney can feel Hillary Clinton’s pain,” by Dan Zak: “Last winter Ann Romney curled up in the family mansion to write her memoir, in pen on yellow legal pads. She wanted the story to hinge on her struggle with multiple sclerosis …  After she miraculously went into remission, the brutality of presidential politics became a new source of pain — which she re-lived when she saw Hillary Rodham Clinton on the “Today” show Tuesday. Voters ‘just don’t connect with you,’ co-anchor Savannah Guthrie said to Clinton. And ‘they might not like you’ … Horrible, Romney thought … ‘It’s like: ‘We don’t like you; how come?’ Romney says, mimicking the querulous media. ‘It’s like, really? I know her. And she’s obviously an extraordinary mother, she’s extremely brilliant, with unbelievable experience.’ The whole thing, with the attacks from everything, you develop — a bubble. From that. A protective bubble. Which you have to do. You have to! Whatever that bubble then projects to somebody is really not what’s inside the bubble.'”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Our analytics partners tracked more than 112,000 crossmedia mentions of McCarthy on Thursday — more than any candidate running for president not named Donald Trump. As far as what’s next for House Republicans, the traditional media was full of speculation. More than 2,700 of the 15,000 news mentions about McCarthy yesterday also mentioned Paul Ryan, per Zignal Labs. Sometimes a word cloud tells the entire story:


More than 19,000 of the McCarthy tweets and stories mentioned Benghazi, reflecting this sort of reaction from the Twittersphere:


–Pictures of the day:

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) lost a bet with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) about the NL Wild Card game. “I hope you’re happy, @SenatorKirk. Enjoy the @IronCityBeer and Pierogies,” Toomey tweeted. “Cubbie blue looks good on you, @SenToomey!” Kirk replied:

Another sports fan, Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), dressed his one-week-old son Lane in a Carolina Panthers jersey:

The Tea Party Patriots sent out this shirt all around town:

–Tweets of the day:

Rupert Murdoch apologized to President Obama over his comment that Ben Carson would be a “real” black president:

Conservatives were elated at the McCarthy news:

Fox News contributor Brit Hume challenged conservative outside groups to name an acceptable candidate who could lead:


( @brithume )

The scene on the Hill was chaotic after the news broke–

Boehner holed up in the cloakroom:

And members were crying:

Fox News host Greg Gutfeld volunteered for the speaker’s job:

Donald Trump said he liked a follower’s idea:

GWU Political Science Professor Sarah Binder had a personal perspective on the news:

Democrats had a field day with the GOP turmoil.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) hunkered down to watch cable coverage about the House GOP (“…made myself a smoothie … GOP mtg to elect next Speaker not going smoothly”):

So did Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who has been in the hospital this week:

Of course, operatives at the House Democratic campaign arm had their own idea:


( @dccc )

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) created a parody job ad (note: “babysitting experience strongly preferred”):

— Instagrams of the day:

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) had a timely joke when he bumped into some Star Wars characters at a Creative Rights Caucus function. “This guy had an interesting way of asking for my vote for Speaker,” he wrote:

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), posing at the same event, described this face as her “Blue Steel.”

Dem lawmakers stopped for a selfie at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institue gala:

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) posted a photo from college for Throwback Thursday:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— Los Angeles Times, “Marco Rubio’s childhood in Las Vegas shaped as well as tempered his politics,” by Lisa Mascaro: ” He was known as Tony back then, a young boy so persuasive and self-assured that he helped convince his family to ditch Catholicism for the Mormon church, and marched in a union picket line with his dad, a casino bartender, to demand better wages … Marco Rubio’s life might have turned out very differently had he stayed in this working-class neighborhood off the Las Vegas Strip … But the Rubios returned to Miami after six short but formative years in Nevada … All that Rubio left behind in Las Vegas points to a world view once considered, but ultimately rejected, a time he tried on new political and cultural ideas he later would shed. His childhood enthusiasm for the powerful Las Vegas unions has been replaced by a pro-business economic sensibility. He abandoned the Mormon faith in favor of a mash-up of his wife’s evangelical Christianity and his own Catholic roots. He has publicly criticized the gambling industry.”

New York Times, “Reclusive media mogul stands firmly in Carly Fiorina’s corner,” by Eric Lichtblau: Fiorina “was not even a candidate for president when Jerrold Perenchio, a Los Angeles billionaire, started putting his money behind her this year and urging his wealthy Republican friends to do the same … Mr. Perenchio, 84 — who helped build Univision, the Spanish-language cable giant, produced hit television shows and once represented celebrities like Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Elton John — is banking on Mrs. Fiorina as his latest rising star. He has already contributed nearly $1.6 million to a group supporting her, making him its biggest donor by far, and he has hosted at least three fund-raisers, records show … Mr. Perenchio’s support could prove a crucial lifeline for Mrs. Fiorina as she seeks to stay competitive against her much better-financed Republican rivals … ‘It’s a big plus for her to have Jerry in her corner,’ said Karl Rove.”

Wall Street Journal, Assad seen trying to force the West to choose between his regime, Islamic State,” by Sam Dagher: “Russia’s intervention is lending credence to what is widely believed to be Mr. Assad’s ultimate aim: Leave only one opponent in the multisided war—Islamic State—and force the West to choose between the extremist group and his regime. Jubilant Assad loyalists have boasted that Moscow’s expanded involvement has foiled more than four years of efforts by the West and its allies to dislodge the strongman by backing Syria’s more-moderate armed opposition … ‘The heroic and extraordinary move by our friends in the Russian Federation will create a new history and geography for the region,’ Faisal al-Mekdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, said on state television late Wednesday. ‘This is a transitional period, not for us, but for those in the enemy camp. It is they who will make the shift,’ he added, referring to the U.S. and its Arab allies.”

— Condi Rice and Bob Gates have an op-ed in today’s Post about how to counter Putin in Syria: “Putin’s move into Syria is old-fashioned great-power politics…Let us also realize that hectoring Putin about the bad choice he has made sounds weak. The last time the Russians regretted a foreign adventure was Afghanistan. But that didn’t happen until Ronald Reagan armed the Afghan mujahideen with Stinger missiles that started blowing Russian warplanes and helicopters out of the sky.” They have three steps:

  • “First, we must reject the argument that Putin is simply reacting to world disorder. … He sees a vacuum created by our hesitancy to fully engage in places such as Libya and to stay the course in Iraq.
  • “Second, we have to create our own facts on the ground. No-fly zones and safe harbors for populations are not ‘half-baked‘ ideas. They worked before (protecting the Kurds for 12 years under Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror) and warrant serious consideration. … Moreover, providing robust support for Kurdish forces, Sunni tribes and what’s left of the Iraqi special forces is not ‘mumbo-jumbo.‘ It might just salvage our current, failing strategy. A serious commitment to these steps would also solidify our relationship with Turkey, which is reeling from the implications of Moscow’s intervention. In short, we must create a better military balance of power on the ground if we are to seek a political solution acceptable to us and to our allies.

— The Daily Beast, “Why Ben Carson is white America’s perfect black candidate,” by Goldie Taylor: “…the lure of a Carson candidacy could not be more appealing to some party leaders, Republican influencers like Rupert Murdoch, and rank-and-file voters—all of whom have been looking for a way to attract more non-white voters … There is a solid conservative streak running through the African-American community, especially among people of faith. Many, however, still consider the Republican brand toxic and find many tenets of the national platform antagonistic to their interests. Then too, the GOP owes much of its modern-day success as a national party to its stronghold in the South, gained largely through acts of defiance against the Civil Rights movement … ‘[Carson is a] vessel that alleviates some aversion guilt,’ Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher asserted. ‘Most mainstream, middle-class Americans don’t want to vote for racists. There is something inoculating about Carson.'”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Stephen Hawking: Be afraid of capitalism, not robots. From the Huffington Post: “Machines won’t bring about the economic robot apocalypse — but greedy humans will, according to physicist Stephen Hawking. In a Reddit Ask Me Anything session on Thursday, the scientist predicted that economic inequality will skyrocket as more jobs become automated and the rich owners of machines refuse to share their fast-proliferating wealth.”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Clinton is performing poorly with men. From National Journal: Hillary is “finding out that an unprecedented level of resistance to her candidacy among men is undermining the conventional wisdom that she’d be the strongest Democratic nominee in the general election. Put another way: Clinton is now nearly as unpopular with men as Donald Trump is with women. That’s saying something.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Bernie Sanders holds a rally in Tucson. Marco Rubio starts a three-day campaign swing through Nevada. In New Hampshire, John Kasich holds a town hall in Stratham and Lindsey Graham tours Sig Sauer in Newington, before going on to Kittery, Maine, for a press conference. In Iowa, Martin O’Malley holds a roundtable in Newton and Bobby Jindal speaks to voters in Orange City.

–On the Hill: The Senate is in pro-forma session. The House meets at 9 a.m., with last votes expected no later than 2 p.m.

–At the White House: President Obama heads to Oregon to meet with families of the Umpqua Community College shooting. Later, he stops in Seattle to fundraise for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and San Francisco for the DNC. 

— Programming note: In observance of Columbus Day, there will be no Daily 202 on Monday.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Newt Gingrich said, if the votes were there, he would be willing to serve as interim speaker. “If you were to say to me, ‘218 have called you up and given you their pledge,’ obviously no citizen could ever turn down that kind of challenge,” the former Speaker told radio host Sean Hannity. “This is why George Washington came out of retirement — because there are moments you can’t avoid. If the House conference wanted me to be helpful in their thinking through how they’re going to solve what I think is much more than a personality problem, I would always be available as a citizen to be helpful.” (Technically the speaker does not have to be a sitting member of Congress…)

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

“It’s breezy before our summery, possibly stormy conditions today, and through our more autumn-like weekend ahead. For sunshine lovers, enjoy what little there is today. There’s more to come tomorrow, as this front is pushing through before the weekend really gets going,” the Capital Weather Gang reports.

In Game One of the ALDS, the Houston Astros beat the Kansas City Royals, 5-2.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Watch Donald Trump rock air drums to Aerosmith in Las Vegas:

Trump brought a Colombian supporter up on stage:

Chris Christie said the House GOP is doing a “Game of Thrones thing”:

Finally: A cat in Michigan that was shot by a crossbow has miraculously survived and is now recovering in the care of the Humane Society. (Via NBC)