1. Most of the presidential candidates will take only two days off next week. Huckabee, Thompson, Romney, Clinton, Edwards, Biden and Dodd are in Iowa. John McCain raises money in Louisiana. The rest of the field is in New Hampshire.

2. Rudy Giuliani's standing in the polls continues to plummet. A new NBC/WSJ poll shows him tied with Mitt Romney -- hey, Romney is on the rise, nationally. And remember: national polls tend to sample relative to population, so New York, Florida and California are well represented. .... In Iowa, Mike Huckabee leads Mitt Romney by seven points in the new ABC News/Post poll, and is winning three-to-one among weekly churchgoers. The poll shows that Huckabee's personal attributes, his religion and Romney's religion kindled his rise....the smart Jennifer Rubin sees a McCain rise nationally... Ron Paul says he'll keep $500 donation from white supremacist Don Black...apparently, there exists in this world a white supremacist named Ron Black....The Politico's Roger Simon says Thompson lived up to his lazy stereotype, but Thompson campaign calls the column unfair and untrue...

3. So far, no sign of an Al Gore endorsement before the holidays. Spokesperson Kalee Kreider says Gore has no public schedule over the next few weeks......A Hillary Clinton Christmas present... Katie Couric: "Harry Truman said a man not honorable in his marital relations is not usually honorable in any other. Some voters don't feel comfortable supporting a candidate who's not remained faithful to his or her spouse. Can you understand their position?" Barack Obama's answer to this question:


Some of our greatest presidents haven't always been terrific husbands. And some who have been wonderful husbands have been rotten presidents. So i think that other countries have typically taken a little more casual an approach when it comes to the personal lives of elected officials and i think that there has to be some space for privacy. I mean, there are some people who might say that the fact that i indulged in drugs when i was young disqualifies me. I mean, there are a lot of ways that you can apply that kind of morality. What i'm always hopeful of is that people judge our public servants based their passion, their commitment, their ....integrity, how they operate with that public trust.



Here is how Hillary Clinton answered:


Well, i can certainly understand why some people would feel that way and that is their perfect right to do so. But i think that would be a tough standard for most of erican history to be able to meet when we look at people who've made a big difference in our country. I think there's more to someone's honor and integrity and to their public service. I think sometimes we confuse the private and the public in ways that are not necessarily useful. So of course it's a deeply personal matter that i take personally, but i think on the public stage, there are a number of people who have represented our country, led our country, accomplished great achievements on behalf of our country who might have some challenges in their personal life but have made a great contribution.



4. 12 candidates qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, but not Chris Dodd....Christian Science Monitor begins series on religion and politics...

5. Richelieu, the nom de plume of a prominent Republican strategist who has advised at least two presidential candidates, thinks I'm gullible:


The Edwards campaign is trying hard to generate a sense of momentum in Iowa. I recognize a few trusty old dodges, mirrors, and other tricks from the spinmeister's toolbag in their spiel; they are pulling record (even Goldwater-esque) crowds, internal metrics like web visits, sign-ups, bumpersticker hand-outs, and my favorite of all "volunteer calling" all show growing support, etc., etc. (The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder falls hook, line, and sinker for it here .)

I'm more doubtful. It reminds me of Howard Dean's 41,000 committed and identified supporters on the eve of the last Iowa caucus. Still, an Edwards surprise win in Iowa is not impossible. Polls show him in the hunt , and he did well there in the past. He is a good campaigner. Hillary is on the rocks. But it is easy to mistake the final enthusiasm of your supporters, especially if they suspect the end is nigh, for a surge. We'll see what the world looks like right after Christmas.

Meanwhile, my gut tells me the Huckabee surge is fading now in Iowa. It might not be so bad for Romney after all. A narrow loss will look like a comeback after the original Huckabee polling leap knocked Romney's out-of-control expectations back down to earth. Plus, my Iowans tell me the new Romney comparison spots are starting to have an effect.

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