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4:35 PM ET, December 21, 2011

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 Top Items: 
Wall Street Journal:
The GOP's Payroll Tax Fiasco  —  How did Republicans manage to lose the tax issue to Obama?  —  GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected.
RELATED:
ABCNEWS:
Capitol Stand-off: Republicans Caving?  —  My prediction: House Republicans will soon - probably within 24 hours - cave in and accept the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut passed last week by the Senate.  —  I base this on conversations with House Republicans who know they are losing …
Alex Seitz-Wald / ThinkProgress:
Speaker Cuts Off C-SPAN Cameras When Dems Attempt To Bring Vote On Payroll Tax Cut  —  During a quick pro-forma session of the House this morning, Republicans rebuffed a Democratic attempt to force an up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed payroll tax holiday extension, which Republicans have thus far refused to allow.
Steve Benen / Washington Monthly:
Literally walking away from a fight  —  It was rather remarkable this morning to watch the proceedings on the House floor.  House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) wanted to try again to bring up the Senate's bipartisan payroll-tax-break compromise, and instead of debating, Republicans literally walked away from the fight.
Alex Seitz-Wald / ThinkProgress:
Romney Refuses To Take Position On Payroll Tax Holiday  —  In two TV interviews today, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney refused to take a stance on the biggest issue in Washington today: the extension of the payroll tax holiday.  A huge bipartisan majority in the Senate passed …
Pete Kasperowicz / The Hill:
House Republicans stiff attempt from Democrats to call up Senate payroll bill  —  House Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt Wednesday to call up the Senate payroll tax bill by quickly gaveling the day's pro forma session to a close.  —  Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) presided over the brief session …
Jonathan Weisman / Washington Wire:
Gingrich to House GOP: Give In on Payroll Tax  —  DES MOINES, Iowa - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who famously lost budget battles to President Bill Clinton amid two government shutdowns, had some advice to House Republicans at loggerheads with another Democratic president: Give in.
Brian Beutler / tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com:
TPMDC  —  Watch GOPer Literally Walk Out On Dem Attempt To Push Payroll Tax Cut
Marin Cogan / The Politico:
House Republicans who bucked their party
Discussion: Washington Monthly
Manu Rajuand John Bresnahan / The Politico:
McConnell leaves Boehner on limb
Discussion: CNN, FrumForum, The Hill and The Hill
Jason Clayworth / Iowa Caucuses:
Newt Gingrich to gay Iowan: Vote for Obama  —  Gingrich and his wife Callista at tonight's event in Oskaloosa.  Oskaloosa, Ia.  - Newt Gingrich told a gay man and longtime resident of Oskaloosa here today that he should vote for President Obama.  —  “I asked him if he's elected, how does he plan to engage gay Americans.
RELATED:
Faiz Shakir / ThinkProgress:
Newt Gingrich Tells Gay Iowan To Vote For Obama
Steve Benen / Washington Monthly:
The point at which Mitt Romney loses his mind  —  Mitt Romney unveiled a brand-new stump speech in New Hampshire last night, reading a carefully-crafted, poll-tested text from two teleprompters.  Confident that his Republican primarily rivals simply won't (or can't) catch him …
RELATED:
Alexander Burns / The Politico:
You, sir, are no Teddy Roosevelt  —  In a speech to be delivered in Bedford, N.H., this evening, Mitt Romney will push back explicitly on Barack Obama's recent invocation of Teddy Roosevelt in a speech the president used to frame the 2012 campaign in terms of “fairness.”  Here's what Romney will say:
James Q. Lynch / Iowa Caucus 2012:
ISU/Gazette/KCRG Poll: Ron Paul new frontrunner  —  CEDAR RAPIDS — Just two weeks before Iowa's first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses there's a new leader, but the race remains “remarkably fluid,” according to a new Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll of likely Republican caucusgoers.
Discussion: The Politico, Ballot Box, CNN and GOP 12
RELATED:
Ron Paul / Washington Post:
Ron Paul becoming serious contender in Republican presidential race
Benjamin Kang Lim / Reuters:
Exclusive: North Korea's military to share power with Kim's heir  —  (Reuters) - North Korea will shift to collective rule from a strongman dictatorship after last week's death of Kim Jong-il, although his untested young son will be at the head of the ruling coterie, a source with close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing said.
RELATED:
Scott Whitlock / NewsBusters.org:
Whoopi Goldberg: Communism Is ‘a Great Concept’ That ‘Makes Perfect Sense’ on Paper
Discussion: Doug Ross and Big Hollywood
Amie Parnes / The Hill:
Obama's Hawaii Christmas dilemma  —  President Obama faces a most difficult decision with the payroll tax extension up in the air, and it isn't whether to compromise with Republicans.  —  The toughest call for the president this holiday season could be whether to join his family for Christmas in Hawaii or stay in lonely Washington.
RELATED:
Nate Silver / FiveThirtyEight:
Explaining Obama's Approval Rating Bounce
Derek Thompson / The Atlantic Online:
The Most Important Graphs of 2011  —  What is it about graphs and economics?  In a discipline where facts are murky and certainty is elusive, graphs offer a bright light of information and a small confidence that the world can be summed up between two axes.
Neal Pollack / Salon:
I knew Christopher Hitchens better than you  —  Every writer who had a drink with Hitch has now told his story.  But even Rushdie and Amis didn't know him like this  —  Christopher Hitchens and I were friends for 40 years, plus another five when we were enemies.
Discussion: ThinkProgress
Paul Glastris / Washington Monthly:
Obama's Rising Poll Numbers: The Dog-That-Didn't-Bark Factor  —  As Steve noted yesterday there are plenty of reasons why, going into the Christmas break, Barack Obama is looking surprisingly strong politically.  The economy is slowly improving.  The troops are out of Iraq.
Tom Gantert / Michigan Capitol Confidential:
Chevy Volt Costing Taxpayers Up to $250K Per Vehicle  —  Analyst: ‘This might be the most government-supported car since the Trabant’  —  Each Chevy Volt sold thus far may have as much as $250,000 in state and federal dollars in incentives behind it - a total of $3 billion altogether …
Grist:
The mercury rules announced today are a bona fide Big Deal  —  Today, at long last, the EPA is unveiling its new rule covering mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants.  —  Anyone who pays attention to green news will have spent the last two years hearing …
Cameron Joseph / Ballot Box:
Romney features wife, touts ‘character’ in new ad  —  Mitt Romney's new ad features his wife Ann talking about his character — and could be seen as implicitly tweaking Newt Gingrich for his own personal life.  —  “You can never predict what kind of tough decisions are going to come in front …
Discussion: CNN
 
 
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 More Items: 
McSweeney's:
Newt Gingrich's Letter to Virginia, Regarding the Existence of Santa Claus and Claims …
Discussion: TBogg
Fox News:
Did Attorney General Eric Holder Play the Race Card with His Critics?
Discussion: Hot Air and Big Journalism
CNN:
CNN Poll: Americans agree on bringing troops home from Iraq
Discussion: The Politico
New York Times:
Iraqi Leader Threatens to Abandon Power-Sharing
Discussion: NO QUARTER
Maggie Haberman / The Politico:
Callista dings Mitt on Twitter
Discussion: Washington Post and NO QUARTER
U.S. Census Bureau News:
Texas Gains the Most in Population Since the Census
 Earlier Items: 
Robert Reich / The Huffington Post:
Why the Republican Crackup is Bad For America
Discussion: The Other McCain
DealBook:
E-Mail Clues in Tracking MF Global Client Funds
Lee Davidson / Salt Lake Tribune:
Romney has six. Jon Huntsman has four. And Rick Perry has one.
Discussion: Shakesville and The Caucus
Jonathan Chait / New York Magazine:
Romney Tortures Jennifer Rubin
Frank Newport / Gallup:
Many Americans Dissatisfied With All Presidential Candidates