---WILL HE OR WON'T HE? The speculation about whether Vice President Joe Biden will enter the 2016 race has reached a fever pitch as supporters, reporters and political prognosticators weighed in on his intentions, ABC's JONATHAN KARL, RICK KLEIN and ARLETTE SAENZ report. ABC News has learned a longtime associate of Biden's inquired about renting available office space in downtown Washington for a possible presidential campaign. But that associate acknowledged to ABC News that he was asking about office space on his own, without guidance or permission from the vice president or his current political team. The associate, who requested anonymity, is among those who think Biden is likely to run, but not based on a direct signal from Biden himself. People who have spoken to Biden and those close to him in recent days have emerged with a general consensus that he's moving toward a run, but that he still has not made up his mind to declare his candidacy. http://abcn.ws/1OPgGns
--TESTING OUT THE MESSAGE? Biden's supporters have acknowledged the odds would be stacked against him -- starting so late with no money, no campaign organization and way behind in the polls. While he weighs his options, the vice president may have been testing out campaign messages about his potential Democratic opponents -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. "I'm not one of these guys - you know, 'Let's go after the rich and the powerful and they're the problem. They're not a problem. But everyone has to do their part, man!" he said in a speech at the White House, a subtle reference to Sanders. "I don't consider Republicans enemies. They're friends," the vice president said in the same speech, just one week after Clinton cited "the Republicans" as the enemy she's most proud of. The two jabs may have been further clues about how serious Biden is about enter the 2016 race, but the bottom line is the only person who really knows when he's deciding is the man whose decision it is to make -- Biden. http://abcn.ws/1OPgGns
--ANALYSIS -- ABC's RICK KLEIN: Say this about Joe Biden: He's not staying out of the race this long for political reasons - or, at least, not for very good ones. The new ABC News/Washington Post shows Hillary Clinton in command of the Democratic field, up 54-23-16 over Bernie Sanders and Biden. That's plus-12 for Clinton over the past month, and minus-five for Biden, with Sanders barely budging and the others hardly registering. A strong debate performance helped Clinton, and it appears as if the extended will-he-or-won't-he flirtations (Maureen Dowd's column published August 1) haven't helped Biden. Clinton still has her political and policy vulnerabilities, with concerns that can and will register inside Democratic primaries. Yet 38 percent of all Americans - not just Democrats - say they expect her to the be the next president, in the new poll; Donald Trump, at 20, is the only other candidate in double digits on that question. The only true path for Biden is if voters judge Clinton to be unelectable. As of now, though, voters assume she's going to win. Without Biden making the case otherwise, Clinton is headed toward solidifying her grip on the Democratic field.
--ON THE VP'S SKED with ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ: A busy day for Vice President Joe Biden today - most of it consisting of events celebrating former Vice President Walter Mondale. At 9:15 AM, the vice president will deliver remarks at the "Walter Mondale: Living Legacy" forum at the George Washington University Media and Public Affairs Building. In the afternoon, the VP will have his weekly lunch with the president and later in the afternoon, he will join the president's meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry. At 5:00pm, Biden will host a reception for Vice President Mondale and at 7:45 PM, the vice president will deliver remarks at a gala in honor of Vice President Mondale at the Four Seasons in Washington.
--ABOUT LAST NIGHT: Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a reception last night at the Naval Observatory for the United Service Organization's 2015 Service Members of the Year and Volunteers of the Year, notes ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. He made no mention of 2016, but the VP thanked the USO for the support it extended to the Biden family following the death of his son Beau. "You supported us when our son deployed for a year. You supported us when he came home and you supported us when he lost him. And you've embraced us with open arms, you and the entire organization," Biden said. "It means a lot."
--WHAT COULD HAPPEN TO HILLARY CLINTON IF JOE BIDEN ENTERS THE RACE. Despite Hillary Clinton's strong showing in the first Democratic debate last week, many people are still wondering whether Joe Biden will finally throw his hat into the ring. Among the open questions is how the vice president's entry would possibly affect Clinton's bid for the nomination. So ABC's MADISON JAROS dove into the details of recent polling to see what people have been saying about the two candidates. http://abcn.ws/1MPog1n
--NEW ABC NEWS/WASHINGTON POST POLL: Clinton Rebounds in Democratic Race, Gaining Against Sanders and Biden Alike. Hillary Clinton has followed a successful debate performance by rebounding in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, regaining ground against Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden alike. With anticipation surrounding Biden at a peak, Clinton has 54 percent support in interviews Thursday through Sunday, compared with Sanders' 23 percent and Biden's 16 percent. That's 12 percentage points better for Clinton than her position a month ago, bringing her halfway back to her level of support in the spring and summer, before her September stumble. Among other factors, Clinton benefits from a substantial sense of inevitability within her party: Two-thirds of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they expect her to win the nomination. That's hardly changed from March, despite Sanders' surge in support this summer. Whether it's impacted by Biden's decision remains to be seen. Expectations are less settled for the general election in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. In an open-ended question asking all Americans whom they expect to win the presidency in November 2016, 37 percent pick Clinton, more than name any other candidate; next is Donald Trump, tipped to win by 20 percent. Boosted by Clinton's score, 48 percent pick any Democrat, while 37 percent pick one of nine Republicans. MORE: http://abcn.ws/1Gn7Jk6
TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC's RYAN STRUYK:
We're still focused on Joe Biden's every move today, as we expect a decision on his potential White House bid very soon. The Vice President will spend his day in Washington at events remembering Walter Mondale. He gives remarks at a forum this morning at 9:15 a.m. and then will host a reception at the Naval Observatory and give remarks at the Four Seasons Hotel tonight. Biden will also have a private lunch with President Obama today, later joining a private meeting between Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. The current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is off the trail today, but her presence is made loud and clear by a new ABC/Post poll out this morning showing her up 12 points nationally, stretching her lead over Bernie Sanders - also off the trail - to a sweeping 31 points. And if you're staying up, you can watch Donald Trump take to the late night circuit: He'll be on Jimmy Kimmel tonight at 11:30 p.m. The rest of the day is quiet: Ben Carson continues his temporary break from public campaign events with his book tour in Texas. Martin O'Malley will be on "The View" at 11 a.m. Jeb Bush is fundraising out west, while his in-state rival Marco Rubio is in Washington for Senate business. Carly Fiorina, down 11 points in this morning's new NBC/WSJ poll, is in New York for a GOP dinner. Democrat Jim Webb holds a press conference at 1 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington to discuss a potential independent run for President. The former Virginia Senator's threat for a third party run comes after he wasn't happy with the speaking time he got in last week's debate. He's at 1 percent in today's new ABC/Post poll.
ON THE HILL with ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL and ALI WEINBERG:
PAUL RYAN RETURNS TO WASHINGTON: All eyes are back on Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who has given no public signals one way or the other about a possible speaker run. He's expected to size up potential support among members this week before making a decision. If he doesn't run, more than a dozen Republicans are expected to jump into a free-for-all speaker race. House Republicans will hold the first of several scheduled conference meetings tonight to discuss the busy month ahead. Along with electing a new speaker, Congress must vote to raise the debt ceiling (by Nov. 3) and fund the government past Dec. 11. House Speaker John Boehner, who initially planned to step down in 10 days, has agreed to stay on until his successor is chosen.
AHMED COMES TO CAPITOL HILL: Ahmed Mohamed is heading to Capitol Hill this morning for a press conference with Rep. Mike Honda, D-California. Honda has called on the Justice Department to investigate Ahmed's detention and arrest, after a clock Ahmed brought to school was mistaken for a bomb by one of his teachers.
THE BUZZ with ABC's PAOLA CHAVEZ and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HILLARY CLINTON'S BENGHAZI HEARING. Hillary Clinton will return to Capitol Hill Thursday to give her testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She's expected to face questions about events surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi -- where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed -- as well as her private e-mail setup. Clinton's testimony has been eagerly anticipated after comments from several House Republicans about the committee and Clinton's presidential campaign. ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL highlights what you need to know about the hearing. http://abcn.ws/1M1aDao
THE HOUSE BENGHAZI COMMITTEE CHAIR HAS A FAMILIAR QUESTION FOR CLINTON. Thursday may be deja vu for Hillary Clinton. The Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state returns to Capitol Hill Thursday to answer questions about the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Some of the questions lawmakers are expected to ask her may sound very familiar. "What I want to know is while violence was going up in Libya why was our security profile going down?" Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy told CBS News in an interview Sunday. "It wasn't even staying the same, it was going down." That question is nearly identical to the first question Clinton was asked by House and Senate Republicans when she testified in front of Congress about the terror attack almost three years ago, ABC's JUSTIN FISHEL notes. http://abcn.ws/1NRrB1A
JIM WEBB CONSIDERING INDEPENDENT RUN FOR PRESIDENCY, CAMPAIGN SAYS. Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, a Democratic candidate for president in the 2016 race, is considering an independent run, his campaign announced Monday. Webb is set to discuss "his candidacy, the campaign, and his views of the political parties in the current election cycle" tomorrow in Washington DC, according to his campaign's announcement. ABC's ALANA ABRAMSON notes Webb, previously a Republican, switched to join the Democratic Party in 2006, right before he ran for one of Virginia's Senate seats. http://abcn.ws/1LH0x2C
MARCO RUBIO'S FUNDRAISING GOALS FALL SHORT OF EXPECTATIONS. Over the course of a recent campaign swing in New Hampshire, Marco Rubio was repeatedly asked about campaign finance. His answer each time: "When the media stops charging for ads, I'll stop fundraising." In late June, the Florida senator's campaign was the first to make ad buys, reserving $17 million worth of airtime in early primary and caucus states. But he may have bitten off more than he could chew: with last quarter's fundraising numbers out and $11 million in cash on hand, it turns out Rubio cannot currently afford that. John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University who specializes in political advertising, explained the Rubio campaign may have a contract that will allow it to pay as it goes. But in terms of optics, he said, this doesn't look good. The Rubio campaign maintains it isn't worried. "We are on track to having our best fundraising month so far," said Alex Conant, the campaign's communications director, when asked about the ad buys. ABC's INES DE LA CUETARA notes ads can be bought at any time, but they only get more expensive. http://abcn.ws/1PuZaXd
DONALD TRUMP AND BEN CARSON REQUEST SECRET SERVICE PROTECTION. Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson have requested protection from the Secret Service. According to a Homeland Security spokesman, the department received official requests Monday for protection from both campaigns. Candidates who are frontrunners typically request protection around this time of year. The requests from the two candidates have been "under review pursuant to the statutorily required process," the spokesperson told ABC News. ABC's JACK DATE has more. http://abcn.ws/1M1uqGw
OBAMA REGAINS MAJORITY JOB APPROVAL; MOST SEE GOP INFIGHTING AS DYSFUNCTION (POLL). More than half of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Barack Obama's job performance, a first in nearly two and a half years. That compares with 71 percent disapproval of the Republicans in Congress, with six in 10 calling their struggle to select a new House speaker a sign of dysfunction within the GOP caucus. Likely boosted by improving economic sentiment, Obama's job approval rating has gained 6 percentage points since July to 51 percent, a level he hasn't seen since May 2013. That's up 11 points from his career low a year ago. ABC's GARY LANGER and GREGORY HOLYK have more. http://abcn.ws/1RkhX5d
WHAT WE'RE WATCHING--
OFF-THE-TRAIL: BIRDWATCHING WITH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GEORGE PATAKI. For George Pataki, being in nature is for the birds -- literally. When the former governor of New York isn't on the campaign trail running for president, he enjoys spending time on a very different kind of trail: Pataki is an amateur birdwatcher. Pataki told ABC News more about his passion for the pastime and checked in about his campaign on his inaugural visit to Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C. ABC's ALI DUKAKIS and RICK KLEIN have more. WATCH: http://abcn.ws/1W0XWC0
WHAT WE'RE READING--
"Joe Biden has No Room for Error," by Politico's EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE and GABRIEL DEBENEDETTI. Joe Biden's 2016 path gets trickier by the day, but people who've been through presidential campaigns can still see it - provided they squint hard enough and nearly everything goes his way. If he decides to run, he'll have to count on a unique campaign landing exactly right in what's already proved a weird cycle. He'll also have to hope that the argument being made by his advisers is correct: that 2016 is the Joe Biden election, with an electorate desperately yearning for the authenticity that's always been his brand and searching for the middle-class values that no one else running strikes quite like he does, And, critically, that voters will think he's the man who can unite the Democratic Party, and the country. People who've spoken to him about running say he believes all that could fall into place. But to win a presidential race - and to start by winning the nomination in a field that already has a strong front-runner and an alternative lighting up the lefty base - he will also have to pull off an almost perfectly-executed campaign. With just over three months until the Iowa caucuses, there's no time for error or stumbling. "I don't think the Biden campaign has to follow traditional rules, he's coming at this in a very nontraditional way," said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network and a longtime Democratic strategist who worked on Bill Clinton's 1992 race. "He's going to feel his way through this as he's been feeling his way past the last few months." http://politi.co/1QOCuPs
IN THE NOTE'S INBOX--
Congressman Jim Renacci (R-OH), a member of the Ways & Means Committee, releases a roadmap of reforms today intended to create unity in the Republican Conference. Renacci believes there is too much talk about the person for the Speaker's job and not enough about the actual job of Speaker. His reforms are outlined in his plan here: http://1.usa.gov/1M3p5i9
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
AMERICAN FIGHTER JET STRUCK BY SMALL ARMS FIRE IN AFGHANISTAN. An American F-16 fighter jet flying over Afghanistan last Tuesday was forced to land at its base after being shot, according to Pentagon officials. ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ reports, the shots fired from the ground damaged the F-16 jet and forced the pilot to release the jet's fuel tanks and damaged munitions. A statement released by U.S. Air Forces Central Command said the plane had landed safely at Bagram Air Base and the pilot had received no injuries in the incident. "The F-16 was flying routine combat air patrols," according to the statement. "F-16's regularly fly combat air patrols across Afghanistan in support of ground forces." http://abcn.ws/1ZRodHI
@TheBradMielke: The world's yummiest primary lesson begins. Follow @ABCPolitics on Snapchat as I tour NH's best diners. http://bit.ly/1QOC8br
@nytpolitics: Before Hillary Clinton Testifies on Benghazi, Huma Abedin Will Speak With Clinton Donors http://nyti.ms/1RTHVx6
@bgittleson: Here's @GolfDigest's take on the @JoeBiden will-he-run story http://www.golfdigest.com/story/joe-bide
@BrianStelter: On @NewDay, Trump doubles/triples/quadruples down on Bush 9/11 critique: "They knew an attack was coming"
@markknoller: Today at the WH: No presidential events but @POTUS has lunch with the @VP. Wonder what they'll talk about? Press coverage? Yeah, sure. Not.