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IOWA -- Sarah Palin has not made an official endorsement in the 2012 presidential race, but the surging Rick Santorum is telling Iowans he's her kind of candidate.

Iowa talk radio is a cacophony of political radio ads in the days before the Jan. 3 caucuses, and in the course of a two hour drive down the highway Friday, I caught spots from Ron Paul talking up his nickname "Dr. No", a spot where Newt Gingrich repeats a promise over and over that "the jobs will grow" if he's elected, and the infamous Mitt Romney spot touting his endorsement from Ann Coulter.

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As the National Rifle Association sets its sights on keeping President Barack Obama from a second term in the White House, a new report finds that the group's fundraising grew twice as fast as its income from membership dues from 2004 to 2010. Bloomberg News reported that the group received $71.1 million in donations last year, up 54 percent from the $46.3 million figure they raised in 2004.

If previous numbers are any indication, election years are pretty crucial for the NRA. Their revenue minus expenses went from $29,923,548 in 2008 -- when the man they called "Gun Ban Obama" was running for president -- to $1,183,523 in 2009, when he actually took office (their total revenue decreased by just over $10 million).

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Remember how the Obama administration planned to alert Congress of its intent to raise the debt limit by today? Well, that's getting kicked back a few days.

An aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) says the White House has assured Republicans they will not issue the debt limit request this week, heading off a confrontation between the administration and the GOP over Congress' power under the debt limit law to block the increased borrowing authority.

Under the terms of the August debt limit agreement, the administration was given the right to raise the debt limit by $2.1 trillion in three tranches, nearly unilaterally. The catch was that Republicans reserved the right for the House and Senate, within a narrow time frame, to block the increase. This caveat was largely symbolic. Democrats control the Senate and wouldn't undermine President Obama by triggering another debt limit crisis -- and even if they did, Obama would reserve the right to veto the so-called "resolution of disapproval." But it's a ready-made talking point for the GOP.

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Rick Perry has a new ad up in Iowa making his closing argument to voters. He summarizes his record: creating jobs in Texas, fighting “Obama’s war on religion,” and proposed part-time Congress. The ad shows images from Perry’s campaign stops in Iowa and thanks Iowans for their votes.


Newt Gingrich, whose small war chest has prevented him from running the advertising blitzes that Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have, is getting a little help from his friends. The conservative Newsmax will run a 30-minute special in major Iowa media markets over the weekend about Newt. Hosted by Michael Reagan, the special makes the case that Gingrich is best suited to carry on the legacy of Ronald Reagan.

Newt is also getting a little help from Jerry Falwell-founded Liberty University, which is airing 30-second ads of Newt touting the importance of a Liberty education.

Newt Gingrich is not generally known as the warm and fuzzy type, but he got choked up in Iowa on Friday as he discussed his mother's battle with mental illness.

"She had bipolar disease and depression and she gradually acquired some physical ailments and that introduced me to the whole issue of long term quality care," he recalled at a forum with GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

He continued, explaining that "my whole emphasis on brain science comes in directly from dealing with --" before pausing, teary-eyed. "See how you got me emotional?" he said.

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In Iowa Friday, Ron Paul pushed back on comments from running mates like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum that his foreign policy would be dangerous for America, reports the Des Moines Register. At a campaign event, Paul joked to the crowd: ““I will be talking a lot about personal liberty and our Constitution, but I will warn you, it’s been described as a ‘very dangerous’ philosophy.”

More seriously, Paul said: “There is nobody that even comes close to thinking about touching us…We have the weaponry. We have the troops. We can defend our country.”

The Hollywood Reporter:

Kelly Clarkson's endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul appears to be helping her record sales. By a lot.

After voicing her support for Paul, and taking heat on Twitter in the process, Clarkson's latest album, Stronger, is going gangbusters on Amazon, spiking 200 percent in sales on the e-tailer within a 72-hour period, according to the website.

To whit: on Tuesday, the album ranked 41st on Amazon's list of "Movers & Shakers in Music"; three days later, it is #13 (and possibly climbing).

Ron Paul may be be polling well in Iowa, but he's had a tough few weeks denying responsibility for racist and homophobic material once published under his name. Now, we can add women's rights to the list. And this time, it will be hard for Paul to place the blame on another author.

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To round up 2011, TPM put together our 100 seconds of the biggest stories of the year. Protests spread across the world from Madison to the Middle East; politicians kept on gaffing, debates about financial equality raged and Mother Nature let loose her wrath all over the world.

So, settle down with a soothing hot drink and let's all look back at what we've been through over the last 12 months...

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