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The Consumer Confidence Index has surged to 64.5 in December, the highest level since April, indicating rising optimism about the economy, the AP reports.

At an Iowa town hall, Santorum explained his opposition to ethanol subsidies, saying that we should let the market work instead. He pointed out that Newt Gingrich is for ethanol subsidies, but said that was just another example of government picking winners and losers.

At a town hall in Iowa Tuesday, Rick Santorum mocked plans to pass a flat tax, saying it would be impossible to pass a 10% or 15% flat tax through Congress. Instead, Santorum pushes a tax system with two tax rates, and special exceptions like wiping out corporate taxes on manufacturing to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States.

As we head into a new year -- and as Republican primary voters finally start heading to the polls -- the questions of delegate math could start to matter if no single candidate is able to easily run away with the big prize in the early going.

And despite previous talk of proportional representation in the March contests -- an effort to prolong the nomination race, and prevent one candidate from sewing it up based on pluralities -- it might not mean much at all. An analysis by Josh Putnam of the actual, final delegate selection plans for each state shows that the states have adhered just closely enough to the rules, and taken advantage of some loopholes, so as to make the changes virtually meaningless.

In truth, many of them are still de facto winner-take-all -- and others, meanwhile, are just de facto winner-take-almost-all.

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In a 2006 memo written after Romney’s health care plan passed in Massachusetts, Gingrich says he “agreed entirely” with the plan and praised the individual mandate as key to the plan’s success:



We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans... Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse; these free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers


Read the full memo here.

In an interview with New York magazine, a senior Romney strategist expressed supreme confidence that Mitt would be the nominee: “The dynamics couldn’t be better for us,” the strategist said. “I don’t see any scenario where we’re not the nominee.”

On Monday, Ron Paul became the fifth candidate to sign a pledge from Personhood USA. Signees agree that life begins at conception and that as president they would work to outlaw abortion at all stages of pregnancy:



I stand with President Ronald Reagan in supporting “the unalienable personhood of every American, from the moment of conception until natural death,” and with the Republican Party platform in affirming that I “support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.”


Tuesday night, Personhood USA will hold a pro-life forum — via tele-town hall and radio — in Iowa. So far, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum are attending.

Campaigns and political action committees have spent over $10 million in Iowa this December on TV and radio advertising, more than in previous years. Rick Perry leads the pack with $2.86 million, but pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future is a close second with $2.85 million. The rest, according to the Des Moines Register, are:



Paul’s campaign falls next in line at $1.37 million, followed by a pro-Perry super PAC that’s made $1.33 million in ad buys this month.

Romney’s campaign checks in at $1.11 million.

Newt Gingrich has one of the smaller figures at $476,000.

The tracking data didn’t capture recent buys by Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann, and the campaigns declined to release their numbers.

All Michael Osborne wants is a little fairness. But in the end he may be responsible for handing Virginia's Republican presidential delegates to someone other than who the polls show Virginia Republicans want.

In the long history of electoral embarrassments, a candidate failing to make the ballot in the state where he resides (and then calling that failure his campaign's Pearl Harbor) puts Newt Gingrich near the top of the list. So it's maybe not a surprise that some conservatives are questioning why Gingrich (and Rick Perry) didn't make the ballot this time around when every Tom, Dick and Fred Thompson running in 2008 got their names on the Republican primary ballot.

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