HUFFPOST HILL - Republicans Prepare to Mark Four-Year Anniversary Of Mike Huckabee's Game-Changing Iowa Caucuses Victory

Jon Huntsman is pulling a Gingrich by not campaigning in Iowa, and Newt Gingrich is pulling a Huntsman by not winning in Iowa. Twitter's discovery of Santorum Salad *the day before* the Iowa caucuses proves that @God exists. And journalists tried to wring out one last Field of Dreams reference before the big day ("Is this Heaven?" "It's the Des Moines Marriott on Grand and 7th!"). This is a slightly truncated IOWA CAUCUSES edition of HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, January 2nd, 2012:

LOOKS LIKE IT'S ROMNEY, PAUL AND SANTORUM - Seriously, find someone who predicted that and see to it that he or she receives a very fine gift basket (ripe pears, Toblerone... y'know, the works). As for the rest of us, well, we all seriously need to shut the hell up when 2015 rolls around. Mark Blumenthal: "The latest poll of Iowa's likely Republican caucus-goers provides more evidence of a race headed toward a photo finish, with Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and a surging Rick Santorum running within two percentage points of each other. The automated poll conducted by the Democratic Party-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Ron Paul at 20 percent, Mitt Romney at 19 percent and Rick Santorum at 18 percent on a survey for which PPP reports a margin of error for each candidate of +/- 2.7 percent. Running farther back are Newt Gingrich at 14 percent, Rick Perry at 10 percent, Michele Bachmann at 8 percent, Jon Huntsman at 4 percent and Buddy Roemer at 2 percent. PPP interviewed 1,340 likely Republican caucus goers on December 31 and January 1. Like other recent polls, PPP shows strong momentum for Rick Santorum, who gained 8 percentage points in the last week." [HuffPost]

Ron Paul is feeling it. From this morning's slightly-edited-for-public-consumption stump speech: "Not only do we want to audit the Fed, we want to end the Fed!! make sure that we have something much better than the current Federal Reserve System."

Meanwhile, the Obama team spent the day watching the Flyers at a bar near Centro.

@elise_foley: Fun fact: Every member of the Santorum family is a NRA member, except the 3-y-o. Wife Karen owns the most guns.

Social D's guitarist was at Ron Paul's morning event, drink in hand. HuffPost Hill found him twice later in the day, both times at the Marriott bar. He said his band needs more publicity, so here.

CANDIDATES BARNSTORM IOWA -- FEW, IF ANY, ACTUAL BARNS INVOLVED - To be fair, "barnstorm" sounds much nicer than "DrabHiltonConferenceRoomStorm." Max Rosenthal: "Mitt Romney, the perceived frontrunner, will hold a grassroots rally in Des Moines in the morning. The rally is his only scheduled stop before a caucus night party at the Hotel Fort Des Moines at 8:45 p.m. Rick Santorum will host a now-plausibly named Iowa Caucus Victory Party at 7:00 p.m. at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston. Santorum, who has ridden a late wave of support into a virtual three-way tie with Romney and Ron Paul, has no other events scheduled. At the Rock The Caucus assembly in West Des Moines, which encourages young Iowans to vote, Michele Bachmann and Paul will both make morning appearances. The assembly is Bachmann's only event on the day; Paul has a 7:00 p.m. caucus night event at the Courtyard hotel in Ankeny. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be doing a bus tour on Tuesday, with two stops in the morning, one at 9:00 a.m. in Muscatine and then at 11:30 a.m. in Burlington. Doubling down on his "job creators" rhetoric, Rick Perry will hold two town halls with businesses in Des Moines. The first is at 1:00 p.m. with Principal Financial Group, followed by an event at Nationwide/Allied Insurance at 2:30 p.m. Perry will then hold a caucus night party at the Sheraton in Wes Des Moines. Jon Huntsman is the only candidate completely not campaigning in the Hawkeye State; the former Utah governor is staking his chances on a major showing in the New Hampshire primary and will take part in four events there on Tuesday." [HuffPost]

@evanmc_s: Santorum Salad, as created/christened by Boone, IA Pizza Ranch mgr Kieth Rangey is.gd/90Tv92

Political Wire: "A new InsiderAdvantage poll in Iowa shows Mitt Romney leading the GOP field with 23%, followed by Ron Paul at 22%, Rick Santorum at 18%, Newt Gingrich at 16%, Rick Perry at 10%, Michele Bachmann at 6% and Jon Huntsman at 2%. Update: A new American Research Group poll shows Romney leading with 22%, followed by Paul at 17%, Santorum at 16% and Gingrich at 15%." [Political Wire]

@JohnJHarwood: Santorum ridicules robo-call campaign claiming he's weak on gun right -- calls out "whoever it is Ron Paul" who's making the calls

DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Polls show that Iowa caucus goers, whose caucus participation actually has five times the impact of primary votes in later states, worry less about the economy than people across the country generally do. Most likely that's because the state's unemployment rate stands at just 5.7 percent. Of the state's 3 million residents, as few as 80,000 will participate in the caucuses tomorrow. [HuffPost]

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BREAKING: MITT ROMNEY PROVOKES DEEP SENSE OF AMBIVALENCE - Jon Ward reports the feeling described by Mitt Romney's supporters approximates that of people who buy the boring, Tostitos-brand salsa next to the chips in the supermarket. Yeah, you could probably find a spicier, more interesting brand of dip if you went looking a bit. But, hey, it's right there. "Pat Moylan, a 61-year old retiree, stood waiting for Romney to arrive despite his reservations with the candidate. Moylan's lack of excitement about Romney was palpable. 'It's just a gut feeling,' he said. 'I like somebody who's a little more aggressive. I don't think he's aggressive enough.' But Moylan seemed to be leaning toward supporting Romney anyway, based on the former Massachusetts governor's business background and on the fact that he said he's choosing between Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) based on who has the better chance to beat President Obama in a general election...comments from voters like Moylan capture a deeper dynamic that seems common in many voters: they are resigning themselves to getting behind Romney but aren't enthused about it. If that remains the case through the rest of this year, that will be a major problem in a general election showdown with an incumbent president." [HuffPost]

@jamesoliphant: Bachmann now delivering stump speech to press. No voters.

Howard Fineman notes that George W. Bush has hovered above the 2012 Republican field like the Great Gazoo hovered above Fred Flintstone You know, in a kind of pestering yet instructive way: "In events involving five of the six GOP caucus contenders here in recent days, this reporter did not hear the former president's name mentioned once. A survey of other Huffington Post reporters yielded similar results. The reasons for Bush's invisibility among Iowa Republican/conservatives are obvious. He was unpopular when he left office...And yet, with the important and perhaps even crucial exception of Ron Paul, Republican candidates do not generally dispute the Bush framework, even though they don't mention his name. They want more tax cuts, not fewer; they advocate for a more aggressive policy toward Jihadists; like Bush, they shy away from specifically stating how they would balance the budget; and except for Paul and asterisk candidate Jon Huntsman, they do not specify, in any meaningful detail, how they would regulate Wall Street and the Fed in fundamentally different ways." [HuffPost]

YARD SIGNS NOT A THING THIS YEAR, PROBABLY BECAUSE REPUBLICANS CARE SO MUCH ABOUT OUR EARTH MOTHER AND NOT WASTING AND STUFF - In 2008, Iowa was carpet bombed with yard signs celebrating one candidate or another. That backing bloomed into yard signs, said Jennie Balcom, on "every other yard." Balcom and her husband, Mark Glowacki, both 54, say they haven't seen such a dearth of yard signs in years. On the four-mile ride to the Drake Diner Monday morning, they counted a total of three, all for Ron Paul. In other parts of the state, they say, they've gone long stretches without seeing a single sign. [HuffPost Caucus Live Blog]

This is where American politics is now: "Ron Paul got in a shot at his newly emerged rival in Iowa Monday, calling Rick Santorum -- who frequently touts his conservative credentials -- 'very liberal.'" [HuffPost Caucus Live Blog]

MAY THE WIND BE AT YOUR BACK, BEN FROM BUZZFEED - BuzzFeed: "29 Things I Leaned From Spending Two Days With Rick Santorum"

RIP @BenPolitico. Long live @BuzzFeedBen

Did the torrent of negative Newt Gingrich ads have anything to do with his fall in the polls? Or was it his decades-long record of ethical lapses and personal misconduct? Hmmm. #QUESTIONS. Mark Blumenthal: "How much impact did the negative ads have? The answer is difficult to quantify, since news coverage that repeated and added validity to many of the attack lines helped cut Gingrich's support nationwide. But the sheer volume of attacks advertising aired against Gingrich is staggering. An analysis shared with the The Huffington Post by Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, a company that monitors all television advertising, found that nearly half of the political advertisements aired in Iowa since December 1 were anti-Gingrich...So did the negative ads accelerate Gingrich's fall in the polls in Iowa? They did to some degree, but Gingrich's Iowa plunge parallels an only slightly less severe decline nationwide." [HuffPost]


JEREMY'S (IOWA) WEATHER REPORT - Iowa: The big fear may be some giant snowstorm, which would be a horrible thing for those of you who don't own snowmobiles. Oh, who are we kidding? Most people in Iowa can deal with snow, so they would be fine (the media, on the other hand, would be completely ruined. After all, I imagine that the C-SPAN broadcast truck might be able to get through okay, but I really worry about the agility of the Current TV Vespa). But those fears are baseless; there will be no snow and no rain, which means that it won't be hard to get to the polling places. On the other hand, it will be very very cold, with some arctic wind chills making it feel like winter in Iowa. Expect the natives to have no problems. Also, if you see media members clustered around the candidates, just understand that they just want some warmth from the hot air. Thanks, JB!


- "So I hear you think you know something about Iowa. F*ck You." [http://huff.to/uO31nx]

- Home videos with director commentary added . [http://huff.to/unsqr5]

- Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, and Weird Al sing "Come Together" in Hawaii on New Year's Eve. [http://huff.to/ud3J36]

- The top ten top ten top ten lists of 2011. ***META EXPLOSION*** [http://huff.to/ubYA9i]


@morningmoneyben: "Hey, Romney mentioned the Kardashians! He likes pop culture! He's just like me!," said no one.

@BenjySarlin: Romney-yachted? RT @ryanjreilly: "Romney-boated" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

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