Santa Comes Early

House Republicans finally waved a white flag over the payroll tax cut extension this afternoon—but not before they’d given President Obama what The New Yorker’s John Cassidy aptly called an “early Christmas present.”

 And just the one he wanted and needed: a nice big boost to his re-election prospects. The White House’s crafty handling of the Tea Party’s latest hissy fit, along with Obama’s recent turn toward a more populist economic message, has boosted his approval ratings to 49 percent and given him a seven-point edge over his closest Republican rivals, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, in one recent national poll. That’s basically the same lead he held over John McCain in the late stages of the 2008 general election. The standoff was doing so much damage to Republicans that even McCain and Gingrich and The Wall Street Journal had begun calling for House Republicans to give in—and in Gingrich’s words, “to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily.” But for the president’s purposes, of course, “grudgingly” is even better.  

So They Say 

"I think Romney is the best choice for us. I like Perry, but he doesn't seem to be going anywhere."

Daily Meme: Judging Newt  

  • George Will eviscerates Gingrich for his attack on the judiciary: “Logic … is a flimsy leash for a mind as protean as Gingrich’s.” 
  • The American Bar Association president says Gingrich’s proposals threaten our liberty. 
  • Ruth Marcus notes: “In Gingrich’s America, if the Supreme Court struck down the individual mandate to obtain health insurance, a reelected President Obama would be free to ignore the ruling and order the mandate enforced.” 
  • Business Insider calls Gingrich’s proposals “absolutely terrifying.” 
  • Harold Meyerson sums it up: “Between the death of Kim Jong Il and Newt Gingrich’s descent in the polls, it’s been a tough couple of days for fans of tubby megalomaniacs.” 


What We’re Writing

  • Patrick Caldwell reports from Iowa that Ron Paul’s supporters are the only ones who love their candidate. 
  • Will an easy path to the nomination make Romney a weaker candidate? Jamelle Bouie ponders the question.  

What We're Reading

  • Michele Bachmann’s Iowa strategy comes clear: Whoever visits the most towns wins. 
  • Conservative groups’ top Senate target for 2012 is Ohio’s Sherrod Brown.
  • Isn’t That Sweet Dept.: Gingrich campaign launches a “Pets with Newt” site highlighting his love for animals. 
  • Romney’s fundraising takes off—partly because of Newt-phobia? 
  • Fred Barnes claims that “no president since Richard Nixon has focused as single-mindedly and relentlessly on winning a second term as Obama.” He doesn’t mean it as a compliment. 

Poll of the Day 

Gallup finds Gingrich’s edge over Romney shrinking among Republicans to 27-21 percent nationally—and Romney generating a far more positive response from Democrats.