In his latest National Journal column, NBC political analyst Charlie Cook raises this point: "With the economy clearly weakening, many top economists fear a recession. Even if the economy doesn't reach that point, they predict a slowdown in the annual growth rate to perhaps 1 percent. Given this, will the focus on national security and terrorism give way to greater concern over the economy? And will that put the ball in Romney's court, where his managerial competence as Massachusetts' governor and in business could trump national security worries?"
More from Cook: "A shift in focus to the economy would certainly give this contest a new twist. On October 9, Republicans held a debate in Michigan, ground zero in America's economic war zone, yet the candidates hardly addressed the anxiety over the economy that many voters had been expressing for months."
The L.A. Times examines how the phrase "sanctuary city" became such a dirty word, er, phrase, in the GOP race.
Reporting on Wednesday's GOP debate, NBC's David Gregory said on Nightly News that "the immigration debate has become the core of the fight for the GOP nomination."
And Bloomberg News looks at how South Carolina is just as angry over the immigration issue as GOPers in Iowa. Note this irony: "It's striking that immigration is the paramount domestic issue in South Carolina, since the state has no more than 75,000 undocumented residents, estimates the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington-based research group. All immigrants, legal and illegal, make up just 3 percent of the population of 4.3 million, compared with 12 percent of the U.S. as a whole."
The Columbia State reports on the Confederate flag issue from the debate, and tried to get all of the candidates on the record about it.
GIULIANI: The Politico follows up on its breaking news from Wednesday. "Giuliani and his senior aides Thursday blamed anonymous bookkeepers for his administration's practice of billing the travel expenses for his personal security detail to obscure city agencies. But a top aide was unable to say why Giuliani's administration and his successor's rebuffed questions from the city's top fiscal watchdog in 2001 and 2002. City Comptroller William Thompson said Thursday his auditors were 'stonewalled' by the Giuliani administration when they inquired about the unusual billing procedures, which he called 'disturbing.'"
The Rudy-Judith expenses story takes the cover of the New York Daily News. With a photo of a worried-looking Giuliani, hand over mouth, screams the headline: "DOESN'T ADD UP! Now Rudy camp changes story of tryst dollar accounting."
It is the second story in the New York Post. Its headline and subhead: "Rudy Pin$ Blame on NYPD: Claims 'slow' dept. spurred 579G juggling act."
Giuliani used the timing of the security detail story (just a few hours before the YouTube debate) as a defense.
Politico's John Harris responded to Giuliani's "hit job" charge: "This was a fair and carefully reported story. We gave the Giuliani campaign ample opportunity to dispute the story or comment on our reporting before publishing and they did not do so. Since the story ran, we have not heard from the campaign disputing any substantive aspect of the story."
Meanwhile, the New York Times does a fact-check story on Giuliani and the various statistics he uses to back up his success claims in NYC. "And while, to be sure, all candidates use misleading statistics from time to time, Mr. Giuliani has made statistics a central part of his candidacy as he campaigns on his record." More: "Facts and figures are often the striking centerpieces of Mr. Giuliani's arguments. He has always had a penchant for statistics — his anticrime strategy as mayor was built around a system known as Compstat that closely tracked crimes to focus law enforcement efforts. On the campaign trail he often wields data, without notes, with prosecutorial zeal to hammer home his points. But in recent days, both Mr. Giuliani's Republican rival Mitt Romney and Democrats have accused him of a pattern of misleading figures and have begun to use the issue to try to undercut his credibility."
"From time to time, he'll exaggerate, he'll do a misleading number, or he'll just get something plain wrong," Cooper told NBC's John Yang on Nightly News last night.
HUCKABEE: Here comes the scrutiny… McClatchy's David Lightman: "Mike Huckabee was an early signer of the Republicans' no-tax-hikes pledge, and he's campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination by touting the 90 different taxes he cut as the governor of Arkansas." But" "He doesn't mention how, during his 10 and a half years as governor, he presided over $505 million worth of tax increases. Sales taxes were raised. So were gasoline taxes, and the per-capita tax burden on the state's residents grew by about 50 percent."
But headlines like this should help… The Union Leader header calls Huckabee "Iowa's 'Hot Ticket'" and notes he's headed to New Hampshire this weekend.
The Los Angeles Times' Z. Barabak takes a look at the surprising strength of Huckabee in Iowa.
The AP's Fournier looks at the two men from Hope, Ark. "Though polar opposites in political ideology, these two men of Hope, Ark., came to the national stage with similar strengths and weaknesses. Huckabee hopes his measure of the former outweighs the burdens of the latter, as they did for twice-elected Clinton."
MCCAIN: Yesterday, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis sent out a memo trumpeting McCain's performance at Wednesday's YouTube debate. "McCain was the only candidate who sounded like a president -- clear in his vision for a safe and strong America -- and the only candidate on stage with the experience and knowledge to be commander in chief on his first day in office. I have to think the Clinton campaign is having a great day after watching the various schoolyard fights that broke out between Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. Do we really believe that by ripping our party apart on immigration we will be better able to win a general election against Hillary Clinton and the Democrats?"
PAUL: Could Ron Paul meet his $12 million fundraising goal for the fourth quarter by the end of the weekend? Apparently.
ROMNEY: According to BeliefNet, Romney will delay giving The Speech until at least next year. "'A lot of people were talking about doing it before Thanksgiving and the holidays, but then we moved up in the polls, including in South Carolina,' a senior Romney advisor tells Beliefnet. 'So the thinking became that the timing [for a speech on religion] was not as rushed.'"
"'It might be that a speech is more appropriate for late in the primaries or for the general election,' said another Romney advisor. 'Frankly, this is going to be a question of polling; if we're doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire, and [Romney's Mormonism] is not coming up as a divisive issue, maybe we should just stay the course, since winning in those early states is key.' 'I came onto the campaign with great conviction that the speech needed to happen immediately,' said this second advisor. 'Now, I'm a little more hesitant.'"
THOMPSON: In his first visit to Arizona as a presidential candidate, Fred Thompson yesterday joked about -- and expanded on -- the message of his campaign's negative YouTube video in last night's debate, NBC's Andy Merten notes. Asked by a reporter in Phoenix after a lunchtime fundraiser about the "aggressive" nature of his YouTube ad last night, which hit Romney on abortion and Huckabee on taxes, Thompson laughed, saying: "I used their own speeches against them." He added, "It's not aggressive at all."