THE NOTE: How the Huck's Stealing Iowa

Unfortunately, the rest of Huckabee's essay was silent as to what America should do about Hyman Roth and his Sicilian message boy, Johnny Ola."

McClatchy's David Lightman writes up Romney's problems with religion in South Carolina. "An estimated 63 percent of Republican S.C. primary voters in are "born again" or evangelical Christians, so a Romney win would be hailed as dramatic proof that his Mormon faith wasn't a big factor in voter judgments," Lightman writes. "Except that evidence from polls and visits throughout the state shows that it is."

Rounding up the latest holiday ads:

Hillary Clinton gets serious -- in a cheesy way. LINK

John Edwards gets serious -- in a preachy way. LINK

Joe Biden gets serious -- in an artsy way. LINK

Rudy Giuliani gets light-hearted -- but in a serious way. LINK

John McCain just gets serious. LINK

Mitt Romney plays superhero -- in Gotham, no less. LINK

With Congress' business wrapped up, President Bush grabs some pre-Christmas limelight with a 10 am ET White House press conference on Thursday.

Romney, Huckabee, and Fred Thompson all campaign in Iowa on Thursday, while Tancredo's "major announcement" comes at 3 pm ET in Des Moines. Clinton and Edwards are in Iowa as well, while Obama spends some time with independent voters in New Hampshire (they're called "undeclared" in the Granite State).

Get Thursday's full schedule in The Note's "Sneak Peek."

Also in the news:

Rudy's rough ride continues, not even including the fact that his plane had to turn around on Thursday, and he checked himself into a hospital Wednesday night with flu-like symptoms. "After precautionary tests the doctors found nothing of concern at this time and Rudy will be going back to New York later today," Giuliani spokeswoman Katie Levinson tells ABC's Jan Simmonds.

Much can (and will) be made of the fact that Giuliani spent the day Wednesday in Missouri, sandwiched by two days without public events.

The Boston Globe's Brian Mooney reports that Rudy will spend three days next week in Florida and may not be in Iowa at all in the final six days before the caucuses. "He continues to set aside more time than the rest of the Republican field for fund-raising," Mooney writes.

We get the Feb. 5 strategy -- but can anyone discern a distinct Rudy message these days? (One that doesn't involve fruitcake, that is.)

Could there still be room for Fred? "Thompson has far more upside potential than any other Republican, and he is spending the entire final stretch in the Hawkeye State," Robert Novak and Timothy P. Carney write in the Evans-Novak Political Report. "If he defies his reputation as a lazy worker, he could make a spectacular surge here."

Maybe Thompson, R-Tenn., isn't lazy anymore (or maybe it's late and he's a night owl). "Languishing near the bottom of many polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. Thompson is making a last-ditch effort to finish third in Iowa, behind Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, even as he tries to dispel talk that he lacks energy on the trail," The New York Times' Cate Doty writes. "He has a rigorous schedule planned until the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, not counting a few days off for Christmas."

Remember when Romney said in his big religion speech that he "saw my father march with Martin Luther King"? Well -- maybe not exactly. "He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman, told the Detroit Free Press' Todd Spangler.

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