Democrats Spend on Ground Game

Patrick Ruffini: “Clinton has a staff of at least 90 in Iowa, with an additional 100 unpaid organizing fellows, and at least 17 field offices. Bernie Sanders’ Iowa staff has grown to more than 50, with 14 offices. In Democratic circles, an operation of that size is not considered a luxury available only to front-runners like Clinton, but a prerequisite for being taken seriously. Though gaps in reporting are likely, Democracy in Action reports that no Republican candidate has more than 10 full-time staff in any early voting state (not counting consultants and volunteer leaders).”

Democrats Would Need a Meltdown to Take House

Kyle Kondik: “Democrats do have a list of about 15-20 credible targets, while Republicans have a shorter list of plausible pickups… If Democrats hold the latter and win the lion’s share of the former, they could be about halfway to netting the 30 seats they need to win the House. But then the list of true targets dries up. In order for the Democrats to really threaten the Republican majority, they are going to need a major GOP meltdown.”

This is the Republican doomsday scenario:

“The new speaker… does an even poorer job… and a December shutdown is just a precursor to a year of widely-covered chaos in the House leading into next November…. Many swing-seat Republicans… recoil at the bleak post-Boehner landscape and decide against running for another term… The party’s presidential nominee, who may have spent late 2015 and the first half of 2016 cheering the efforts of shutdown-hungry elements of the Republican caucus, ends up being a colossal general election dud.”

Paul Ryan Mulls It Over

Washington Post: “The concerns driving Ryan are both personal and political. His man-in-a-hurry nature, evident since he first won a House seat in 1998, has never been about climbing the leadership ladder in Congress. Whenever there has been an opening, he has passed, encouraging allies to jump in and focusing instead on drawing up tax and spending legislation in the committee rooms.”

“That career arc — a busy, committee-driven existence in the House after a stint on a presidential ticket — has allowed him to keep a relatively ordinary family life. Those close to Ryan suggest that he is reluctant to give that up for a position, however prominent, that for the past 25 years has been a grind that usually ends in a whimper for its holders, either political embarrassment or personal scandal.”

Is Donald Trump Laying Groundwork for Exit?

“In unmistakable ways over the last two weeks, whether he has intended to or not, Donald J. Trump has started to articulate a way out of the presidential race: a verbal parachute that makes clear he has contemplated the factors that would cause him to end his bid,” the New York Times reports.

“In three television interviews, Mr. Trump, who has made his standing in the polls a central facet of his campaign message, spoke about what would prompt him to quit a race in which he is currently leading in the polls.”

O’Malley’s Last Chance May Be Debates

Martin O’Malley “has been introducing himself to Democratic voters for months in speeches, at rubber-chicken dinners and most recently in a Snapchat video in which he is shown studying on his iPad while doing a plank, in a tank top, at the gym. But he still is almost nowhere in the polls,” the New York Times reports.

“On Tuesday he will have what could be his best chance to grab the kind of attention that could get his candidacy off the ground.”

Biden Would Ditch Super PAC

Politico: “Two sources familiar with the planning around Biden’s potential presidential campaign say the vice president’s team believes the existing super PAC — started in the spring by a few novices unknown to Biden’s inner circle before several more experienced and closely connected operatives joined — should not become the vehicle to support a campaign.”

“The vice president and the people advising him are weighing whether to start another super PAC instead, the sources said. A second option would be to mount a campaign without super PAC support, despite the massive financial disadvantage Biden faces should he enter the race with what would be a very late start.”

House Republicans Enter Bizarre Period

Politico: “This House Republican majority has experienced a lot of weirdness in recent years. One lawmaker was caught sending shirtless photos to people on Craigslist during a legislative retreat. Another threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony — then landed in prison on an unrelated matter. Earlier this year, one of the party’s rising stars redecorated his office in the style of Downton Abbey, then resigned amid allegations he was padding his expense account.”

“But these past few weeks might be the strangest stretch of all for the House GOP.”

Republicans Worry About Paul’s Seat in Kentucky

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) “is under increasing pressure from Republicans here and in Washington to pull the plug on his stagnant presidential campaign and instead recommit his resources to keeping his Senate seat in GOP hands,” Politico reports.

“D.C. Republicans think Paul’s poll numbers have flat-lined — and operatives worried about retaining control of the Senate are ready for him to start spending a lot more time in Kentucky and a lot less time in Iowa and New Hampshire.”

Paul Ryan Stays on the Sidelines for Now

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) “left his colleagues guessing Friday about whether he would run for House speaker, declining to speak at a closed-door session of the Republican caucus where lawmakers hoped to find a path uniting their warring ranks,” the Washington Post reports.

“Ryan never spoke during the nearly 90-minute meeting, according to lawmakers and aides, and just one lawmaker, a freshman from Pennsylvania, said Ryan’s name. An hour after the session broke up, the 2012 vice presidential nominee’s aide issued a statement saying that Ryan still was not ready to run for an office that would place him second in the line of president.”

The New York Times reports that several GOP lawmakers “said they believed Mr. Ryan was softening his position and would return to Wisconsin to discuss the situation with his family and closest advisers.”

Ellmers Addresses Rumors of Affair with McCarthy

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) stood up in a private meeting of Republican lawmakers on Friday and thanked them for their “prayers and support” after they received “nasty emails” accusing her of having an extramarital affair with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Politico reports.

“She did not mention McCarthy by name, detail the content of the emails or provide any other information. Sources close to Ellmers and McCarthy say the accusation is unfounded, and assert that it is being spread by a discredited troublemaker. McCarthy has publicly denied that any personal problems were behind his stunning decision to withdraw from the speaker’s race on Thursday.”