The Des Moines Register previews today's debate and writes that the final debates before the Iowa caucus could have a "seismic impact."
The Boston Globe profiles the Des Moines Register editor moderating the Iowa debates in the next two days. "David Yepsen, the Register's veteran political columnist, said yesterday that the candidates should expect a grilling by Washburn. 'She asks tough questions and pointed questions,' Yepsen said. 'She doesn't mess around. She's really being diligent about this.'"
The New York Daily News writes, "What's that on Mike Huckabee's back? Looks like a political bull's-eye. The former Arkansas governor, riding a double-digit lead in Iowa polls and gaining nationally, likely will be the prime target when Republican presidential candidates meet near Des Moines this afternoon in their final debate before the first-in-the-nation caucuses Jan. 3."
More on the debate: The format may be restrictive as the organizers are promising equal time to the point potentially cutting off candidates earlier than others in order to save time. Also, the organizers got very strict on who could participate in the Dem debate but somehow decided to let everyone in on the GOP side. How are Tancredo and Hunter any more viable than Kucinich?
A new Washington Post/ABC poll shows that Huckabee is now in a statistical tie in the national primary with Giuliani. It does beg the question: Why has every top GOP candidate, except Mitt Romney, seen a rise in the national polls during his early state boomlet?
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times does the all-the-candidates-have-moved-right-on-immigration story. Looks like Tancredo's succeeded.
HUCKABEE: Last night on Nightly News, NBC's Lisa Myers looked into Huckabee's ethics record, especially when it came to taking gifts. "There's an old saying that it's better to give than to receive," Myers said. "But as governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee seemed to like receiving -- a lot." More Myers: "All the gifts were legal. But over the years, the state ethics commission admonished Huckabee five times for failing to report gifts and for failing to report thousands he paid himself and his family from campaign funds." Watch it here.
The Los Angeles Times follows up on the report from earlier this week about how home-schoolers are rallying behind Huckabee. "Huckabee's campaign won't talk much about the home-schooling contingent, which is largely made up of conservative Christians. The staff is weary -- and wary -- of stories that make it seem as though their candidate, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher, relies exclusively on votes and volunteers from the religious right. 'All I've heard the last week is pastors, pastors, pastors, evangelicals, evangelicals, evangelicals,' said Eric Woolson, who runs the Iowa campaign.
"'But the buzz in political circles is that a quarter of Huckabee's Iowa volunteers are home-schoolers. 'It might even be higher than that,' said Danny Carroll, a campaign co-chairman for the state."
Did you realize that Huckabee's daughter is the campaign's field director? She actually has the resume to do it.
And Hall-of-famer Bob Feller, an Iowa native, endorsed Huckabee.
ROMNEY: The candidate appeared on TODAY this morning, and avoided criticizing Huckabee directly on whether he thought Huckabee was doing wink-and-a-nod criticism of Romney's religion. On the immigration TV spot against Huckabee, Romney replied, "It's not negative, it's accurate… Actually, if you agree with mike Huckabee's position, it's a positive ad for him… It's a contrast ad, not negative."
On why his numbers have fallen: "We've seen a lot of surges this campaign." Romney went on to tick off the things about Huckabee's record that he believes deserves scrutiny, including taxes, pardons, and immigration. And on Morning Joe, Romney was asked whether he thought Huckabee was using his Mormon faith against him: "I certainly hope that's not the case."
The AP gets a response from the Mormon church about Huckabee's quote in the upcoming New York Times magazine asking whether Mormons believed Jesus and Satan were brothers. "A spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Huckabee's question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith rather than clarify doctrine. 'We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all,' said the spokeswoman, Kim Farah. 'That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for.'"
"Call it Jane Swift's revenge. The former acting governor of Massachusetts, who was rather unceremoniously elbowed aside by Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican, in the 2002 governor's race, twists the knife in an opinion piece yesterday."
Romney received the National Review's nod yesterday. "Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill... He still has some convincing to do with other conservatives. Romney has been plagued by the sense that his is a passionless, paint-by-the-numbers conservatism. If he is to win the nomination, he will have to show more of the kind of emotion and resolve he demonstrated in his College Station 'Faith in America' speech."
Some who are disappointed they didn't get the NR endorsement are reminding us of some of the personal contributions Romney made to groups affiliated with the conservative magazine.
THOMPSON: Today's Washington Post focuses its presidential profile series on Thompson and the intro on the hard copy of the front page is just brutal. Here are the teasers:
-- "He assumed it would be a walk-on part, but when he saw the script, he was reading for "Fred Thompson." "The smallest decision can lead to doors opening in your life that you never could image," he says."
-- "How he's running: Movies sometimes flop, and so, too, presidential campaigns. In Thompson's case, he let the magic moment pass."
-- "How he looks: The only message that comes through in his attires is that it is wholly perfunctory. He wears cloths so as not to be naked."
-- "How he talks: His 87-year-old mother's advice persuaded him to reject the new intelligence report that Iran has suspended its nuclear program. 'Remember whatcha mama told ya,' he says. 'If somethin' appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.' Is it possible to be too folksy? Thompson seems determined to find out."