THE NOTE: Trading Places

Asks ABC's Jake Tapper: "I wonder if God will in fact smite his opponents . . . ?"

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen still thinks it's Huckabee who needs to talk more openly about faith -- including why he punted on Sunday when asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos whether Mormons are Christians.

"It is absurd that Romney feels compelled to deliver a speech defending his beliefs and that Huckabee does not have to explain how, in this day and age, he does not believe in evolution," Cohen writes. "The Republican presidential field has some feeble minds and some dangerous ones as well, but none has done as much damage as Huckabee has."

The New York Daily News' Helen Kennedy sees good news for Giuliani in a Huckabee-Romney duel. "Rudy Giuliani could use some good news, and Mike Huckabee's amazing surge in Iowa from long shot to first place this week could be an early Christmas gift," Kennedy writes. "Strategically, Giuliani's camp noted that Huckabee's rise means Romney will have to spend more time in Iowa and less time in New Hampshire, where Giuliani is making a late push for votes."

The confusion in the field is enough to convince RNC Chairman Mike Duncan that the race will continue beyond Feb. 5 -- if not quite until the convention he hosted a walk-through for in Minneapolis on Monday. "I don't think it will be as early as some people think," said Duncan, per ABC's David Chalian. (Here's hoping we'll have something to keep us occupied.)

Also in the news:

A pro-Huckabee group (though not with Huckabee's blessing) is making sure that "Giuliani's dirty laundry is being aired all over Iowa in a slew of phone calls and e-mails to potential voters," Carl Campanile writes in the New York Post. "The messages mention the indictment of Giuliani's ex-business pal and police chief Bernie Kerik and accusations that childhood friend Msgr. Alan Placa covered up for pedophile priests."

Giuliani's business interests are getting renewed scrutiny (shouldn't he have put these questions behind him by now?). "His law office has lobbied Congress on behalf of legislation that the Bush administration calls a threat to antiterrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa," Eric Lipton and Ross Buettner write in The New York Times. "The firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, used Mr. Giuliani's name in its pitch to win the assignment, and his clout was a reason it landed the job, said Seyoum Solomon, an Ethiopian-American from Maryland who helped negotiate the deal."

Newsweek's Michael Isikoff looks at Giuliani's work on behalf of the governor of Qatar. "He was acting as an international businessman -- a role drawing increased scrutiny as he runs for president," he writes. "The contract between Giuliani Security, a division of Giuliani Partners, and Qatar 'is a huge conflict of interest,' says Bob Baer, a former CIA officer who tracked [Khalid Shaikh Mohammed]." Baer: "He is metaphorically taking money from the same accounts that paid KSM." (Does metaphorical money count against campaign-finance limits?)

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