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The pressure's on Paul Ryan

There’s a very good chance we’ll see Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, relent and take the speaker’s job -- even if temporarily.

Pressure’s on Paul Ryan … If not him, they who? ... How many more chopped-off heads can there be in this congressional “Game of Thrones”? ... There’s just one “Young Gun” left -- Ryan … On Hillary, TPP, and the trust deficit… Another decision weekend for Biden … Update on the 3rd quarter money race … The dark-money 501c4 helping Marco Rubio … Carson defends Rupert Murdoch: “He’s not a racist” … Bloomberg doesn't 100% rule out a presidential bid … U.S. to scale back in Syria? ... And Bernie Sanders on “Meet” this weekend.”


*** Pressure’s on Paul Ryan: As of this writing, there’s a very good chance we’ll see Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, relent and take the speaker’s job -- even if temporarily -- even though he and his office have tried to shut the door at every opportunity. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said he was fairly confident that Ryan would take the job. So why would Ryan take it, despite all of his earlier statements? It might come down to this: If not him, then who? But the window to pressure Ryan might be short -- if House Republicans don’t get him to acquiesce today, then there is the possibility he’s able to close the door once and for all. But as Ned Stark learned in “Game of Thrones,” sometimes your first instinct is the right one. As one Democratic aide told the New Republic’s Suzy Khimm, “The only good option [for Republicans] is Ryan and he is too smart to take the job,” likening the speakership to the king’s “hand” in “Game of Thrones.” The aide continued that Ned Stark didn’t want the job at first “because that guy always gets his head chopped off. They persuade him to take the job, and guess what? He gets his head chopped off.”

*** But how many more chopped-off heads can there be? It’s worth pointing out: House Republican rebels and the House Freedom Caucus have now gotten three political scalps over the past year -- Eric Cantor (who lost his primary in 2014), John Boehner (who announced he’s stepping down two weeks ago), and Kevin McCarthy (who yesterday abandoned his bid to run for speaker). The House GOP’s original 1-2-3 are essentially gone. And this COULD be a blessing for Ryan (or whomever the next speaker is), because House rebels might simply get tired of collecting political scalps. Or do they? A final point here: Cantor, McCarthy, and Ryan were dubbed the “Young Guns” and even wrote a book together entitled: “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders.” But there’s essentially only one “Young Gun” now left -- Paul Ryan. By the way, you may be asking why we keep writing about McCarthy in the past tense; after all, he said he plans to stay on as majority leader. It’s possible McCarthy can stay on as the No. 2, but many veterans in the House can’t figure out how McCarthy can still be effective in his job given all that has happened. Bottom line: Don’t assume McCarthy is out of the woods yet.

*** On Hillary, TPP, and the trust deficit: For the second time in two weeks, Kevin McCarthy has bailed out Hillary Clinton -- first with his Benghazi committee comments, and second with his big news from yesterday, which stopped (temporarily) the focus on Hillary’s TPP flip-flop. But we want to make another point on that flip-flop: It’s a vulnerable time for Clinton to be adding to her trust deficit, especially with Tuesday’s debate coming up. The good news for Clinton: The email story has (mostly) been out of the news for her over the past couple of weeks. The bad news: This TPP flip-flop will be fodder at the upcoming debate. The New York Times’ David Brooks unloads on her. “This was not only a substantive flip-flop. It was so naked it amounted to a bold and clarion statement of faith on behalf of flip-flopping itself. It suggested a whole style of campaigning and method of governing based on the principle of unprincipledness.” Could this short-term gain with labor create long term pain for the general?

*** Another decision weekend for Biden: As for Vice President Joe Biden, we keep running in the same place: Will he run or won’t he? The latest speculation comes from the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, who reports that Biden associates met with the Democratic National Committee to go over delegate and calendar rules. (A DNC spokesperson would not confirm the news to NBC News.) But let’s cut to the chase: If a decision doesn’t come this weekend, it’s probably never going to come -- or if it does, Biden will be starting SO FAR behind, it might be impossible to catch up to Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders. And progressives are beginning to grow tired of the Hamlet on the Potomac act. “[T]he game Joe Biden is playing now, in holding back on making his decision and telling us what he plans to do, just has to end, and fast. At best it’s becoming a farcical distraction that is beneath him. At worst it’s becoming a serious waste of our time,” writes the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent. Ouch.

*** Update on the 3rd quarter money race: Turning to the 3rd quarter money race, we got new numbers yesterday -- $6 million raised for Marco Rubio and $12.2 million for Ted Cruz. Here’s where the 3rd quarter race stands for now:

  • Clinton: $28M-plus ($75M-plus for campaign)
  • Sanders: $26M-plus ($41M-plus for campaign)
  • Carson: $20M-plus ($30M-plus for campaign)
  • Cruz: $12.2M million ($26.2M for the campaign)
  • Bush: B/w $12M and $20M (raised $11.4 million last quarter)
  • Rubio: $6M ($18M for campaign)
  • Paul: $2.5M ($9.4M for campaign)

Here’s the question we have: Is Ted Cruz going to be second in the GOP field, outraising Jeb Bush? (We still don’t have Jeb’s actual 3rd quarter number). And here’s the follow-up question: Is Cruz maybe the most underrated candidate in the GOP field so far? 

*** The dark-money 501c4 helping Marco Rubio: As for Rubio’s money, don’t miss this piece by the AP: “The Florida senator is benefiting in unprecedented ways from a nonprofit group funded by anonymous donors. While other presidential candidates also have ties to secret-money groups, the Rubio arrangement is the boldest. Every pro-Rubio television commercial so far in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina has been paid for not by his campaign or even by a super PAC that identifies its donors, but instead by a nonprofit called Conservative Solutions Project. It's also sending Rubio-boosting mail to voters in those same states.” Per our ad-spending tracking, Conservative Solutions Project has spent nearly $5 million in the 2016 race.

*** Carson defends Rupert Murdoch: “He’s not a racist”: In an interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Ben Carson responded to the tweet that media mogul Rupert Murdoch fired off on Wednesday, suggesting that President Obama is not a “real black” president, while Carson might be one. “Well, I know Rupert Murdoch. I can tell you he’s not a racist. You know, I don’t think he had any implications in a racist direction, and I think he’s simply saying that this president, who was the pride and joy of black Americans, has really not done a whole lot for black Americans. It probably could have been expressed in a different way.”

*** Bloomberg doesn't 100% rule out a presidential bid: In an interview on MTP Daily, Chuck Todd asked former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg if he would 100% rule out a presidential bid in 2016. He wouldn't.

Bloomberg: "I'm very flattered that people would ask, you would ask.  But the truth of the matter is, I'm very happy doing two things:  running my company and working with the United Nations and with the U.S. government on climate change.  And that's what we're here to talk about.

Todd: Shermanesque?

Bloomberg: Say again?

Todd: Are you going to be Shermanesque about this?

Bloomberg: Sherman? He was a general back in the Civil War, don't you remember that--

Todd: Look at you without the Shermanesque, though no Shermanesque?

Bloomberg: You know, we've got to focus on climate change.

Look, we don’t think Bloomberg will run. He’s a man without a party. But you can also tell he MIGHT still want to be part of the national debate.

*** U.S. to scale back in Syria? That's what Bloomberg View's Josh Rogin and Eli Lake are reporting. “A week into Russia's military intervention in Syria, some top White House advisers and National Security Council staffers are trying to persuade President Barack Obama to scale back U.S. engagement there, to focus on lessening the violence and, for now, to give up on toppling the Syrian regime. In addition, administration officials and Middle East experts on both sides of the debate tell us, Obama's foreign-policy team no longer doubts that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to prop up President Bashar al-Assad and primarily target opposition groups other than the Islamic State, including those trained by the Central Intelligence Agency.”

*** Bernie on “Meet” this weekend: Finally, on “Meet the Press” this weekend, NBC’s Chuck Todd will interview Bernie Sander.

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CONGRESS: Who will be the next speaker?

Leigh Ann Caldwell takes a look at who might be next for the House Speaker slot after Thursday's chaotic withdrawal by Kevin McCarthy.

National Review nicely sums up the Draft Paul Ryan movement.

House Republicans will meet this morning to discuss the way forward. Here's what the stakes are, per the New York Times.

More from POLITICO: "As the full-court press for Ryan plays out, several other members also are considering bids for the top job. Georgia Republican Lynn Westmoreland and Texas Reps. Mike Conaway and Bill Flores are among the names that have been floated. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) also are continuing their bids for the speakership. Some lawmakers have called for a “caretaker” speaker to wield the gavel until after the 2016 election. Retiring Reps. John Kline of Minnesota and Candice Miller of Michigan were among the other lawmakers mentioned as possible interims for the assignment. But momentum for the “caretaker” idea had already begun to lose steam by late Thursday. Miller, for instance, said she wasn't interested in being interim speaker, and was against having a "caretaker" in the post, anyway."

The House Freedom Caucus has laid out its asks in exchange for support for a Speaker.

The big picture, from Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post: "Battalions of conservative ground troops have come to Capitol Hill in the past five years with expectations that were not in line with what could actually be achieved while there is still a Democrat in the White House. Disappointed in their ability to follow through on their campaign promises to turn back President Obama’s policies, they trained their fire on their own commanders."

OBAMA AGENDA: Heading to Oregon

He's going to Oregon to visit victims of last week's community college shooting, but he'll encounter some anger and resistance there, writes the AP.

"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," writes the Washington Post.

OFF TO THE RACES: Double-dipping between Hillary and Biden

BIDEN: Some LGBT activists and big donors who were previously in Clinton's camp are gearing up to help Joe Biden.

After the LA Times reported his unhappiness with the effort, the Draft Biden movement won't air its emotional ad about Joe Biden's personal loss.

CARSON: He said that he has in fact had a gun pulled on him and that he "redirected" the assailant.

Alex Jaffe reports on his efforts to clarify his confusing comments about the debt ceiling.

CLINTON: The New York Times looks at her debate skills over the years.

CRUZ: NBC's Hallie Jackson reports that Ted Cruz raised $12.2 million in 3Q.

O'MALLEY: He's out with his vision for trade policy, with some slams at Hillary Clinton for her reversal on TPP. In the Cedar Rapids Gazette, he writes: "The TPP is not, as some have called it, a “gold standard” deal. Instead, it is a story of winners and losers. Companies that support millions of American families, like those in the manufacturing industry — where good-paying jobs are disappearing at a faster rate than during the Great Depression — will see accelerating job losses and outsourcing."

RUBIO: One of us(!) confirms that Marco Rubio raised $6 million this quarter and will have $11 million cash on hand.

SANDERS: He'll oppose Obama's nominee to lead the FDA.

NBC News' Carrie Dann contributed.