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2012: A cheap primary (so far)

"Even as experts predict that the 2012 presidential race will be the most expensive in U.S. history, a funny thing is happening on the way to the Republican nomination: It’s becoming one of the cheapest primaries in a more than a decade," Bloomberg reports. "The top nine Republican candidates spent $53 million through September, compared with $132 million spent at the same time four years ago. The sum is even lower than totals reported during the same period in the 2004 and 2000 primaries -- when most candidates still were abiding by campaign spending limits in order to receive public matching money."

AP looks at some of the best, er, worst GOP presidential campaign flubs this cycle.

CAIN: He declared yesterday, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!’ And it ain’t over yet,” NBC’s Jo Ling Kent reports. But he said he acknowledged he hadn’t yet talked to his wife face to face about the latest allegations of an affair and that he would make a final decision on whether he stays in the race in a few days, after he sees his wife Friday.

The AP picks up on that this morning: Cain “says a heavy emotional toll on his family -- particularly his wife, Gloria, who he has not seen since the charge surfaced -- could force him to call it quits. The shift comes as a growing chorus of would-be allies suggests he is no longer a viable presidential contender and Cain himself says fundraising has suffered.”

The New York Post: “Supporters are leaping off the Herman Cain train, but the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO insists he’s moving forward with his run for president.”

GINGRICH: Gingrich said on FOX of who’s more conservative between him and Romney, per GOP 12: "I'm clearly the more conservative candidate by any rational standard… Take whatever your list of conservative is. There are places in my career where I've done that stuff, and I've been consistent about it. I was for Ronald Reagan long before people began just to quote him. So that part of it -- there's no contest."

Conservative Andrea Tantaros, writing in the New York Daily News, backs Gingrich for his position on immigration: “[T]he former speaker is right. This country has become the greatest in the world thanks to immigrants who left their nations in search of America's promise. If you want to come here and work hard, there should be a process in place for you to do that. And if you've been here for, say, 25 years and pose no threat, you should be allowed to stay, not forcibly be sent back.”

“Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are nervous about Newt Gingrich’s rise in the polls, with one member saying, ‘Newt’s hand is always six inches from the self-destruct button,’” The Hill writes.

Richard Land wants Gingrich to apologize for his marital infidelity and give a speech about it. Gingrich’s biggest problem, Land writes, if with Evangelical women, who seem to be far less forgiving on the subject than Evangelical men. “You need to make it as clear as you possibly can that you deeply regret your past actions and that you do understand the anguish and suffering they caused others including your former spouses,” he writes, adding, “Such a speech would not convince everyone to vote for you, but it might surprise you how many Evangelicals, immersed in a spiritual tradition of confession, redemption, forgiveness and second and third chances, might.”

HUNTSMAN: At the New Hampshire state House yesterday, Huntsman said, “Did I tell you we’ve changed our campaign motto to ‘live free or die?’ … I want your vote. And if I don’t get your vote, I want a fee for services rendered.”

Jon Stewart pranked Huntsman on Twitter. Huntsman took questions via Twitter with the hash tag, “#Q4Jon” yesterday. So Stewart Tweeted the hash tag out to fans telling them to use it to ask Mad Men actor Jon Hamm questions. Huntsman even replied to question for Hamm: “Asked whether he sees himself following actors George Clooney's or Tom Selleck's career path, Huntsman replied,” per The Hill, “ ‘I definitely want Clooney's career path. But I think that Q was for Jon Hamm.’” He also tweeted, “Funny prank @TheDailyShow!”

ROMNEY: After downplaying the Iowa caucuses, Romney is set to begin airing his first ad there. “The former Massachusetts governor's decision to start spending money on paid advertising in Iowa five weeks before the Jan. 3 caucuses signals a belief that he can fare well in Iowa even though the state tripped up his 2008 bid,” AP writes. “The move comes as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has emerged as the chief GOP challenger to Romney nationally and in Iowa.”

More: “While advisers say Romney's increasing Iowa presence is part of a long-planned effort to surge heading into the must-win New Hampshire primary, the ad and a more aggressive December campaign schedule in Iowa come as the race for the caucuses has remained fluid.” And: “In addition to accepting invitations to Iowa's Dec. 10 and 15 debates, Romney also dispatched his son Josh to Iowa and is sending New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to campaign in the state next week.”

“Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says his faith’s prohibitions on premarital sex, alcohol consumption, and caffeine use have had a ‘liberating’ effect on his life rather than an inhibiting one,” the Boston Globe reports of Romney’s interview with PARADE. “In a companion interview, his wife reveals his vice: chocolate milk. And when he needs to kickstart his day, he resorts to hot chocolate, she says.”

And he declared: “Americans have looked to people like Dwight Eisenhower, F.D.R., and the Kennedys, who all had unusual experiences that were needed for the times they served. In the US, the very poor are provided a safety net, which must be maintained. The very rich are doing fine. The middle class is suffering. It is for the great majority of Americans, the 90 percent in the middle, that I’m running for president.” He also insists that his wife pushed him to run this time and that he was “reluctant after 2008 to run again.”

FOX’s Brett Baier said last night that Romney – twice – told him how unhappy he was with his interview Monday night: "He just made it clear at the end of the interview. We had a little talk. He said he thought it was overly aggressive.... after we finished, he went to his holding room; then came back and said he didn't like the interview and thought it was uncalled for."