Discuss as:

2012: The final sprint begins

The New York Times on the final sprint to Iowa: “Mitt Romney and his allies are making an assertive final push this week to increase his chances of a strong finish in the Iowa caucuses, the outcome of which could help determine the length of the Republican presidential nominating battle. Any questions about whether Mr. Romney is playing to win in Iowa will be dispelled in the closing days of campaigning here. He introduced a new TV commercial on Monday, promoting his economic vision and his family values — a message that is fortified by a hard-hitting punch from a well-financed outside group attacking two of his rivals.”

“An Iowa caucus campaign that has cycled through several Republican presidential front-runners entered its final week Monday, as unpredictable as the day conservatives began competing to emerge as Mitt Romney's chief rival,” the AP’s Beaumont writes.

Politico asks: Who will survive Iowa?

“Iowans might be more likely to have seen Ron Paul, Rick Perry or Mitt Romney on their television screens this December than to have seen Santa,” the Des Moines Register writes. “GOP presidential candidates and the political action committees that back them have together spent more than $10 million in advertising on television and radio in Iowa this month alone, a grand slam of advertising that outpaces amounts of previous years.”

And turning to New Hampshire… “Newt Gingrich’s surge has slowed and Ron Paul has gained momentum, but Mitt Romney remains the clear front-runner in New Hampshire with a little more than two weeks until the nation’s first primary, according to a new Boston Globe poll,” the Globe writes. Romney leads with 39%, Paul and Gingrich are tied for second with 17%, Jon Huntsman gets 11%.

BACHMANN: “Speaking to reporters in Chariton, the Minnesota congresswoman called the House deal to extend the payroll tax break a ‘mistake,’ because it will reduce the flow of money into the Social Security trust fund,” the Boston Globe says, adding, “Asked about the $40 average Americans would lose on their paychecks without an extension, Bachmann said good fiscal managers must prioritize.”

GINGRICH: He went after Romney with a mailer in Iowa describing him as a “moderate.” But NBC’s Ali Weinberg reported that Gingrich on Friday denied that the “moderate” moniker was a jab at Romney. “How could you think that was a criticism?” he asked NBC News. “I think it’s an accurate description of who he is.”

Gingrich didn’t make it onto the Virginia ballot. Political Wire notes, “While it was embarrassing for Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry not to qualify the Virginia primary ballot, Richard Winger notes it was actually the first time petition signatures were actually checked.” Winger of Ballot-Access.org writes, “The only reason the Virginia Republican Party checked the signatures for validity for the current primary is that in October 2011, an independent candidate for the legislature, Michael Osborne, sued the Virginia Republican Party because it did not check petitions for its own members, when they submitted primary petitions.”

The Wall Street Journal digs up this quote from Gingrich praising Romney’s health-care plan from 2006: "The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system." (Hat tip: Political Wire.)

The New York Times: “New court documents that have emerged seem to contradict Newt Gingrich’s account of how his first marriage ended. On his campaign Web site, under the heading ‘Answering the Attacks,’ the Gingrich campaign maintains that it was his first wife, Jackie Battley Gingrich, the mother of the couple’s two daughters, who sought a divorce in 1980.”

PAUL: The New York Times writes about white supremacists who are backing Ron Paul’s presidential bid. “Mr. Paul’s surprising surge in polls is creating excitement within a part of his political base that has been behind him for decades but overshadowed by his newer fans on college campuses and in some liberal precincts who are taken with his antiwar, anti-drug-laws messages. The white supremacists, survivalists and anti-Zionists who have rallied behind his candidacy have not exactly been warmly welcomed. ‘I wouldn’t be happy with that,’ Mr. Paul said in an interview Friday when asked about getting help from volunteers with anti-Jewish or antiblack views.”

“But he did not disavow their support. ‘If they want to endorse me, they’re endorsing what I do or say — it has nothing to do with endorsing what they say,’ said Mr. Paul, who is now running strong in Iowa for the Republican nomination.” 

The Washington Post fact-checker on Paul’s racially tinged newsletters: “Paul offers implausible explanations for why so many derogatory statements made it into his publications, insisting he knew nothing about them. It’s hard to believe that a man who wants to oversee the entire U.S. government — albeit a smaller version — would provide zero oversight of his publications, or even bother to read them from time to time.

The Texas congressman has to take responsibility for the newsletters that bear his name, or at least acknowledge negligence as the former head of the company that produced them.”

PERRY: “Texas Governor Rick Perry is playing up his status as a ‘Washington outsider’ in a new TV ad released [yesterday], which will air on broadcast and cable TV in Iowa,” the Boston Globe notes. In it, Perry targets former Sen. Rick Santorum, Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, as well as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. “Among them, they’ve spent 63 years in Congress,” an announcer says.

“A sharp reader notes that an image of Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry flashes by in Perry's newest Iowa TV ad,” GOP 12 notes.

And what’s Rick Perry doing in his family’s Christmas card?

ROMNEY: He released an ad called “Conservative Agenda,” which shows him “speaking on the stump and meeting with voters, as he makes a series of commitments. ‘I am going to do something to government. I’m going to make it ‘Simpler, and Smaller, and Smarter,’’ Romney says. ‘Getting rid of programs, turning programs back to states, and finally making government itself more efficient,’” the Boston Globe writes. In it, he vows to repeal “ObamaCare,” and he strikes Tea Party notes, saying, “It is a moral imperative for America to stop spending more than we take in.” The ad ends with the words on the screen, “Balance the budget.”

“In the week running up to the caucuses, Philip Rucker reports that Romney will unleash Chris Christie in Iowa (popular in any state), John Thune (whose Midwestern and social conservative appeal is clear), Norm Coleman (represented neighboring state), Jim Talent (represented a neighboring state), Jason Chaffetz (Utah Senator who knocked out a tea party target), and of course Romney and his family itself,” GOP 12 notes. “Romney will speak in Davenport today; then kick off a three-day bus tour in the state.”

SANTORUM: With few others campaigning yesterday, Santorum got some attention: The Boston Globe: “Rick Santorum, topped with NRA cap, shoots for conservative vote in Iowa.”

Here’s what Santorum said about the expectations game yesterday, per NBC’s Matt Loffman: “I think expectations, exceeding expectations, I always said there's really three primaries going on here. There's the libertarian primary, which Ron Paul's going to win. And then you've got the moderate primary, which Gingrich and Romney are scrumming for.  And you've got three folks running as strong conservatives. I think if we win that primary we're in very good shape as the non-Newt-Romney.” (Translation: His goal is to beat Perry and Bachmann.) 

And Santorum has an ad out that seems to channel VH1’s Pop-up video.