The Daily Showdown
August 28, 2014

On Wednesday night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart offered a pretty counterintuitive approach to handling the insurgency from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). After halfheartedly walking his viewers through ISIS 101, using his patented technique of having TV news clips answer his leading questions, Stewart focused on the Islamist militia's plans for carving out an Islamic caliphate. And he addressed ISIS directly, issuing a stark warning: Be careful what you wish for.

"That's right ISIS, look at us," Stewart said. "We're living your dream. We're the most powerful state in history, we influence the whole world, and all we talk about is how everything sucks now!" Well, if cautionary tales about bogged-down bureaucracy and partisan gridlock doesn't stop ISIS, at least it's cheaper than airstrikes. --Peter Weber

1:30 p.m. ET

It's still a bit of a mystery what happened behind closed doors on Thursday when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unexpectedly decided to drop out of the race for speaker of the House. Though details are scarce, McCarthy elaborated in a tweet:

McCarthy also held a short news conference, part of which you can watch below. Jeva Lange

Republicans in disarray
1:24 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday shocked the political world by suddenly dropping his bid to replace John Boehner (R-Ohio) as speaker, with the initial speculation focusing on his inability to win the support of hard-core conservatives who for years have made life miserable for the House Republican leadership.

But could there be another reason McCarthy dropped out?

Conservatives, like Erick Erickson at Red State, are buzzing that McCarthy may have dropped out because of rumors that he was having an extramarital affair with Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) of North Carolina:

There's a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.

A few days ago, he emailed out to 91 people, including these members of Congress, an email with a series of links to stories alleging a relationship between Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) of North Carolina. It is worth noting that the two deny a relationship. [Red State]

Both Erickson and Matt Lewis also note that Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina this week mysteriously called on candidates who had committed "misdeeds" to drop out of the race.

"It is again worth noting that both parties deny it," Erickson writes. "But the rumor itself may have led to McCarthy's collapse." Ryu Spaeth

1:08 p.m. ET
Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

With Republicans reeling after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the race for House speaker Thursday, it suddenly seems that no one else — McCarthy was the favorite — will be able to secure enough votes for the job. While the House Freedom Caucus has endorsed Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), he does not have the 218 votes needed to be elected speaker.

That leaves few interesting options. As Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) told CNN's Dana Bash, Congress might be forced to "assemble a bipartisan coalition" to elect the next speaker of the House. While Bash seemed skeptical that Democrats would vote for a Republican, Dent suggested Paul Ryan might be the man for the job (too bad Ryan has already said he doesn't want the gig). Part of the problem, Dent added, is that the Republicans have been demanding unreasonable concessions. But as Bash later pointed out on air, "Someone has to be speaker." It very much remains to be seen just who that will be. Jeva Lange

Not it
12:55 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Shortly after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the running for House speaker, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) was quick to issue a statement clarifying that he was not at all interested in the job:

Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I'm disappointed in this decision. Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I've received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. [Rep. Paul Ryan]

Ryan was set to give the nominating speech for McCarthy today in the closed party election for speaker. The election has been postponed and a new date has yet to be announced. Becca Stanek

This just in
12:39 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly dropped out of the race for House speaker on Thursday, just as House Republicans were gathering for a vote. McCarthy, who was widely seen as the favorite for the nomination, reportedly said, "I am not the one" as he withdrew his bid.

Though McCarthy may have had enough support to succeed in the vote, the news comes shortly after the influential hardline Freedom Caucus announced it would not support him — an indication that the uncompromisingly conservative voting bloc that threatened to hold a floor vote on John Boehner's speakership would likely be a thorn in McCarthy's side throughout his presumed tenure in the role.

McCarthy plans to remain as House majority leader. The vote for House speaker has been postponed. Becca Stanek

Deals Deals Deals
12:32 p.m. ET

Thanks to one Boston entrepreneur, you can now enjoy New England fall foliage without the looming threat of a miserable winter. Kyle Waring has launched the website, which does exactly what it sounds like it does — mail people leaves. The site promises to "collect, preserve, and ship gorgeous fall foliage" to your doorstep. And it only costs $19.99 — or $6.66 a leaf.

The site will only be shipping the best of the best leaves, too. ShipFoliage promises "Grade A" foliage from New England that is preserved in a way that "enhances the foliage color contrast and also preserves the leaves for years to come."

But ShipFoliage isn't even Waring's first gimmicky business venture — he also ships out boxes of snow. Ship Snow, Yo reportedly sent out "over 700 pounds of historic Boston snow" last year. Becca Stanek

a yuuuuge problem
12:08 p.m. ET
Charlie Leight/Getty Images

Donald Trump says he'll drop out of the Republican race if his poll numbers get too low, a prospect which so far is not on the horizon. On the ground, too, Trump is still pulling in big crowds. But in caucus states like Iowa, high poll and rally numbers won't necessarily translate to actual Election Day support.

An informal survey of Trump backers at a recent Iowa rally found that only one in ten had participated in a caucus before, and the rest seemed unenthusiastic about the prospect of comparatively complicated participation in the political process on a cold Iowa night in February. As one attendee put it while refusing to pledge that she'd caucus, "I have never been to anything like that."

True to style, Trump's campaign appears unconcerned. Said adviser John Hulsizer Jr., "We're thinking this is going to be a historical caucus and I think you’re going to see some phenomenal numbers turn out." Bonnie Kristian

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