THE NOTE: Last GOP Debate Means Last Chances

The Romney camp is now trying to set Huckabee up as the favorite in Iowa, so that a win there would give Mitt some momentum. "Romney's director of strategy, Alexander P. Gage, said the campaign was not concerned about Huckabee's rise in Iowa," Michael Levenson writes in The Boston Globe.

"Gage attributed much of Huckabee's move to demographics, saying 45 percent of Iowa caucusgoers are evangelical Christians, which he called a 'natural constituency' for the former Baptist preacher." Gage: "Iowa was a sweet spot for him."

There's no place like home -- except when everyone back home seems to hate you. We look at the hometown haters who are dogging the three former executives who are leading the GOP race: Romney's feud with his two immediate GOP predecessors; the Arkansas conservatives who are out to bring Huckabee down; and the New York City firefighters and 9/11 victims' families who are making things interesting for former mayor Rudy Giuliani, R-N.Y.

And keep in mind that the window on this campaign is closing even faster than the calendar suggests. The true campaigning stage of the Iowa campaign -- before Christmas shuts everything down, and crowds out everything except a wildly unpredictable final sprint -- has about 10 days left in it.

"Starting sometime soon, the state of the race in both parties is going to go 'behind the moon,' " Matthew Dowd writes in his blog. "We will not be able to get a true picture until the actual caucus voting in Iowa occurs on January 3rd -- which takes place 48 hours after New Years Day. . . . And keep your seatbelt fastened cause this is going to be a wild ride, until the radio contact is restored on the night of the Iowa caucus in less than three weeks."

Among the Democrats, the latest national poll numbers seem to have quieted some of the rumblings of panic inside Camp Clinton (you know they're feeling good when Mark Penn's poll memos resume their jaunty tone).

Clinton's back to her 30-point comfort zone in the new ABC/Washington Post poll: She's up 53-23-10 over Obama and Edwards nationally (with everyone else in the low single digits).

Yet there's just enough behind the innuendo and tabloidese to make it look like Ken Bazinet and Tom DeFrank are onto something with their lede in the New York Daily News: "Bubba to the rescue!"

"Alarmed by his wife's slide in the polls and disarray within her backbiting campaign, a beside-himself Bill Clinton has leaped atop the barricades and is furiously plotting a cure -- or coup," they write. "He's unhappy with her operation -- once hailed as a juggernaut -- and concerned she could lose the Democratic nomination without major alterations in strategy and staffing. . . . Campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle is the biggest target, sources said."

One anonymous source: "They all want to kill each other."

Nothing conveys turmoil like a staff shakeup, and no campaign -- and certainly not the Clinton campaign -- is dumb enough to blow up its infrastructure so close to the caucuses (or, at least, dumb enough to let the press catch on that it's happened).

But what if the shakeup kind of already happened -- and nobody fully noticed? "Nowhere is the Clinton campaign -- which to some Iowans had appeared ignorant of the political subtleties, if not arrogant about them -- working more urgently to recalibrate and head off defeat as the Jan. 3 caucus approaches," Adam Nagourney and Patrick Healy write in The New York Times.

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