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2:40 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:
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.
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 …
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 …
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.
Discussion: National Review
Mj Lee / Reuters:
WSJ: GOP a ‘circular firing squad’  —  In a devastating blow to congressional Republicans, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board blasted the GOP's leaders on the Hill Wednesday for botching the political battle against President Barack Obama and Democrats on the payroll tax issue …
Daniel Strauss / The Hill:
GOP senator says Republicans need to resolve payroll tax fight and ‘move on’
Discussion: Washington Monthly and Daily Kos
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
Los Angeles Times:
With payroll tax cut unresolved, Congress packs up
Manu Rajuand John Bresnahan / The Politico:
McConnell leaves Boehner on limb
Discussion: CNN, FrumForum, The Hill and Hot Air
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
Jordan Weissmann / The Atlantic Online:
How Kim Jong Il Starved North Korea
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
news.iastate.edu:
Paul now top pick in new ISU/Gazette/KCRG Poll, but voters still uncertain  —  AMES, Iowa — A new Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll of 333 likely Iowa Republican caucus goers finds Ron Paul in the top spot among GOP presidential candidates with 27.5 percent, followed closely by Newt Gingrich with 25.3 percent.
Discussion: CNN, New York Times and msnbc.com
RELATED:
James Q. Lynch / Iowa Caucus 2012:
ISU/Gazette/KCRG Poll: Ron Paul new frontrunner
Discussion: The Politico, Ballot Box, CNN and GOP 12
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:
RELATED:
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 …
Discussion: Balloon Juice and The Caucus
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  —  President Obama has seen improved approval ratings in the past few weeks.  His approval rating in the average of six polls tracked by Real Clear Politics now stands at 46.5 percent.  That's the highest the figure has been since July …
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.
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
CNN:
CNN Poll: Americans agree on bringing troops home from Iraq  —  (CNN) - Most Americans agree with the decision to end the war in Iraq, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday.  Almost eight in ten said they support removal of combat troops from that country by the end of this year.
Discussion: The Politico
Jonathan Chait / New York Magazine:
Romney Tortures Jennifer Rubin  —  Romney is making life hard for his Republican Jewish fans.  —  I've written before about the agonizing plight facing Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post blogger.  On the one hand, Rubin's deepest roots lie in ultra-hawkish pro-Israel neoconservatism.
 
 
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 More Items: 
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
Associated Press:
ECB lends Europe's banks a massive €489 billion over unprecedented 3-year period
U.S. Census Bureau News:
Texas Gains the Most in Population Since the Census
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
 Earlier Items: 
Siobhan Gorman / Wall Street Journal:
China Hackers Hit U.S. Chamber
Lee Davidson / Salt Lake Tribune:
Romney has six. Jon Huntsman has four. And Rick Perry has one.
Discussion: The Caucus
Frank Newport / Gallup:
Many Americans Dissatisfied With All Presidential Candidates
Discussion: The Politico and National Review
John Paul Rollert / Slate:
A Matter of Trusts  —  What a lonely dissent in a trusts case tells us …
Discussion: SCOTUSblog
BBC:
South American states ban Falklands vessels from ports
Discussion: The Other McCain and Biased BBC
Reid J. Epstein / The Politico:
Gary Johnson to drop out of GOP primary to run as Libertarian