The Note's Must-Reads for Monday, January 2, 2012

Compiled by ABC News Digital News Associates Jacqueline Fernandez, Jayce Henderson, and Amanda VanAllen

IOWA CAUCUS The New York Times' Mark Leibovich: " In Iowa, a Time to Vote, and, for Many, to Settle" After months of inspecting potential presidents like melons, Iowa Republicans spent the weekend settling on their final specimens - and showing how acquainted they were with their bruises as well as their sweet spots. LINK

The Washington Times' Susan Crabtree: " Romney, Santorum gain momentum down stretch in Iowa" Mitt Romney was all business, Rick Santorum was all smiles and Newt Gingrich pleaded for Iowans to punish negative ads as they fanned out across Iowa on Sunday searching for late momentum ahead of Tuesday's caucuses. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Danny Yadron and Sara Murray:  " Jabs Fly as Iowa Caucuses Near" Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich signaled here Sunday that he plans to take a much more confrontational approach against GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney as the nominating race moves from Iowa to New Hampshire. LINK

RICK SANTORUM ABC News' Michael Ono: " GOP Candidates Attack Santorum's Record as Senator" Some Republican presidential candidates today turned their attacks on Rick Santorum's congressional voting record, hoping to portray the former Pennsylvania senator as a classic Washington insider as he picks up a head of steam in Iowa caucus polling. "If you look at the spending issue, Sen. Santorum voted for the bridge to nowhere," Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said on "Fox News Sunday." "Santorum has stood for earmarks, stood for spending." LINK

The Hills' Niall Stanage: " Energized Santorum campaign moves to capitalize on late surge" The Rick Santorum Show sold out all across Iowa Sunday. But with less than 48 hours remaining before Republicans here vote, the question is how the groundswell of enthusiasm for Santorum will translate on caucus night. His aides insist that they are well-placed to capitalize. LINK

Politico's John F. Harris and Alexander Burns: " Rick Santorum rises with blue-collar pitch" The Santorum Surge? It's hard even to say it without cracking a smile. The notion of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum coming from out of nowhere to be a major factor in Republican presidential politics does indeed sound a bit like a practical joke being played on the political class. LINK

The New York Daily News' Jonathan Lemire: " Ron Paul denies believing CIA behind 9/11, Rick Santorum milks poll surge as GOP braces for Iowa caucuses" As the Iowa campaign moves into its final, frantic days, a slumping Ron Paul came out swinging Sunday to deny charges he believed the U.S. was behind the 9/11 terror attacks. A longtime Paul aide claimed last week that the Texas congressman thought the CIA had a hand in bringing down the World Trade Center - and that President George W. Bush was tipped off ahead of time. LINK

NEWT GINGRICH USA Today's Catalina Camia: " Gingrich: I feel 'Romney-boated' from attack ads" Newt Gingrich says he feels as though he's been "Romney-boated." The former House speaker today continued his condemnation of attack ads directed at him by an independent group backing GOP rival Mitt Romney. Gingrich also charged earlier in the day that Romney "would buy the election if he could." LINK

MITT ROMNEY The Los Angeles Times' Seema Metha: " Romney seems optimistic in face of Santorum surge" For Mitt Romney, it's deja vu all over again. The former Massachusetts governor has spent much of the year as the front-runner to win the Iowa caucuses, watching other candidates ebb and flow in the polls, serenely floating above it all as his rivals savaged one another.   LINK

OTHER The Washington Post's Peter Wallsten: " GOP's election battle plan: Use Obama's own words against him" With Republican voters in Iowa set to finally begin picking a nominee to challenge President Obama, GOP officials in Washington are quietly and methodically finishing what operatives are calling "the book" - 500 pages of Obama quotes and video links that will form the backbone of the party's attack strategy against the president leading up to Election Day 2012. LINK

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