The Note’s Must-Reads for Friday, December 16, 2011

By Jacqueline Fernandez

Dec 16, 2011 2:39am

Compiled by ABC News Digital News Associates Jacqueline Fernandez, Jayce Henderson and Alicia Tejada

ABC News’ Michael Falcone: “Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney Stay Above Fray At Final Debate Before Iowa Caucus“  The harsh attacks leveled by the candidates, their campaigns and their allies spilled over onto a debate stage in Iowa on Thursday night, but the two leading candidates for the Republican nomination largely avoided direct combat.  LINK

LA Times’ Mark Z. Barabak and Seema Mehta: “Gingrich, Romney set sights on Obama in Iowa debate” Acting on their best behavior, the two Republican front-runners essentially called a cease-fire Thursday night in their fratricidal primary fight, using the last full-scale presidential debate of the year mainly to assail President Obama.  LINK

The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg: “As Romney Steps Cautiously, Gingrich Duels With Others” The leading Republican presidential candidates largely shelved their contentious attacks on one another to deliver their closing arguments on Thursday night at the final debate before the nominating contests begin, but Newt Gingrich did not escape sharp questions about his record in and out of government and his ability to defeat President Obama. LINK

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Philip Rucker: “Gingrich and Romney on the defensive in GOP debate” Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney found themselves on the defensive in the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses, with Gingrich challenged on whether he can defeat President Obama and Romney questioned about his consistency on social issues. LINK

The Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan: “Gingrich takes fire from rivals in debate” Facing off against the rest of the Republican field in the final debate before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, Newt Gingrich defended his work for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and didn’t back off from a number of his more contentious stances, including abolishing federal courts he finds too activist. LINK

Politico’s Jonathan Martin: “Nikki Haley to endorse Romney” South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, one of the most sought-after remaining Republican endorsements, will come out for Mitt Romney Friday morning, POLITICO has learned.  Haley will offer her formal endorsement on Fox and Friends, giving Romney an important boost ahead of South Carolina’s primary next month. LINK

NY Daily News’ Thomas M. Defrank and Alison Gendar: “Newt Gingrich holds tongue as GOP opponent attacks“  Newt Gingrich brushed off criticism Thursday night that he is too undisciplined and “zany” to be president. LINK

USA Today’s Susan Page and Jackie Kucinich: “Gingrich under fire as GOP rivals try to stall his momentum“  Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, the latest front-runner in a roller-coaster Republican presidential race, was hammered Thursday in the final debate before the Iowa caucuses as rivals sought to slow his momentum.

The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman and Sara Murray: “Gingrich Defends Stances in Debate” Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used a televised debate Thursday to try to keep momentum going in his front-running presidential campaign. But he found himself on the defensive over his consulting work for Freddie Mac, his positions on Medicare and the question of electability. LINK

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