The Note's Must-Reads for Friday, December 30, 2011

Compiled by ABC News Digital News Associates Jacqueline Fernandez and Amanda VanAllen

RICK SANTORUM ABC News' Shushannah Walshe: " Rick Santorum Responds to Rick Perry on Negative Attacks and Supreme Court Ruling" For the first time in this race, Rick Santorum finds himself getting not only noticed by the other candidates, but on the receiving end of attacks. Rick Perry released a radio ad Thursday hitting Santorum for earmarks he supported while he was in Congress. On Thursday evening Santorum responded, telling reporters after his event that "it's been sort of difficult to go through this race and not get punched." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' James Oliphant: " Santorum a late bloomer in Iowa" For Rick Santorum, it was the paparazzi moment that looked like it would never come. Cameras and correspondents awaited him Thursday at an event in eastern Iowa in numbers that had rarely, if ever, been seen by his campaign. Even the presidential candidate seemed a bit taken aback. LINK

The Washington Times'Stephen Dinan: " Santorum: Willing to 'throw the bombs that are needing to be thrown'" Fighting back against the charge that he's too conservative to be the Republican presidential nominee, former Sen. Rick Santorum said Thursday that he's just throwing the bombs others haven't been willing to throw. Mr. Santorum, the only candidate competing in Iowa's caucuses who has never led in the polls, is suddenly surging here, according to the latest surveys and the crowds turning out in ever bigger numbers to hear him speak. LINK

MITT ROMNEY The Hills' Jamie Klatell: " Polls show Romney gaining steam" Mitt Romney's quest to win the Republican presidential nomination looked stronger than ever on Wednesday after the release of a series of polls. In Iowa, a state Romney had not been depending on but where victory now appears to be within his grasp, polls show the former Massachusetts governor running neck-and-neck with Rep. Ron Paul (Texas). LINK

The New York Daily News' Glenn Blain: " Mitt Romney is on a roll: A new poll puts him ahead of President Obama in one-on-one matchup" Bam! Front-running Republican Mitt Romney is blowing past President Obama in a new national poll that shows the GOP favorite could reach the White House. Romney, the current leader for the Republican nod, was favored by 45% of likely voters to 39% for the President, an eyebrow-raising new Rasmussen Reports survey found. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Patrick O'Connor, Sara Murray and Douglas Belkin: " Sensing Iowa Win, Romney Plans Late Push" Mitt Romney on Thursday signaled increasing confidence he will finish strongly in Iowa's Republican presidential contest, scheduling more time in the state ahead of Tuesday's caucuses. Mr. Romney until recently had hedged on whether to make an all-out effort to win the caucuses, fearful of raising expectations only to make a poor showing. LINK

OTHER USA Today's Susan Page: " Candidates make their cases ahead of Iowa" The seven major Republican presidential contenders argued in interviews with USA TODAY on Wednesday and Thursday that they alone have the boldest policy prescriptions, the strongest experience and the best prospects of defeating President Obama and winning back the White House for the GOP. All described the 2012 election as critical for a nation they say has lost its way. LINK

Politico's Maggie Haberman: " Michelle Bachmann's hard fall" Four months ago, Michele Bachmann seemed poised for a banner December. She'd just won the Ames Straw Poll - vanquishing her Minnesota rival, Tim Pawlenty, in the process - and was getting accustomed to life in the top tier of 2012 candidates. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEOS " Mr. Romney, 'Is It Hard Running for President?'" LINK

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