The Note's Must-Reads for Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News Digital News Associates Jayce Henderson and Amanda VanAllen

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Bloomberg's Roger Runningen and Hans Nichols: " Obama Opens Election Year Focused on Pitching Message on Economy" President Barack Obama's first trip of the election year puts him at a crucial juncture for his chances to win a second term: talking about the economy in Ohio, a key swing state that was battered by the recession. LINK

IOWA CAUCUS: ABC News' Huma Khan, Emily Friedman and Shushannah Walshe: " Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney Both Talk Like Winners in Race Too Close to Call" A resurgent Rick Santorum ran neck and neck with Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday, capping a remarkable rise in popularity, and was leading the former Massachusetts governor by just a handful of votes after a long night of counting ballots. LINK

The Hills' Justin Sink, Cameron Joseph and Niall Stanage: " Romney, Santorum down to wire in Iowa; Paul in third place" Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are separated by a handful of votes as the Iowa caucuses come down to the wire. With 99 percent of the results tallied, Santorum and Romney each have 25 percent support. As precincts report in, the two candidates have switched back and forth between first and second place. LINK

USA Today's William M. Welch: " Romney, Santorum in too-close-to-call race in Iowa caucuses" Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were locked in a too-close-to-call race atop the field in Iowa's Republican presidential caucuses Tuesday night in the first verdict from voters on the 2012 campaign. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, each had a quarter of the votes, with 98% of the precincts counted.  LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Paul West: " Romney and Santorum slug it out in Iowa" In the closest finish in the history of the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney wound up in a virtual dead heat in the first battle for the Republican presidential nomination. A distant fifth-place finish apparently ended the once-promising candidacy of Rick Perry. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. and Patrick O'Connor: " Romney Ekes Past Santorum to Win Iowa" Mitt Romney pulled out a razor-thin victory by just eight votes in the Iowa caucuses, edging out former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and opening the Republican primary season with a dose of momentum going into a New Hampshire primary he is heavily favored to win. LINK

The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny: " Santorum and Romney Fight to a Draw" Mitt Romney's quest to swiftly lock down the Republican presidential nomination with a commanding finish in the Iowa caucuses was spoiled on Tuesday night by the surging candidacy of Rick Santorum, who fought him to a draw on a shoestring budget by winning over conservatives who remain skeptical of Mr. Romney. LINK

MITT ROMNEY: The Washington Post's Philip Rucker: " Romney leaves Iowa with same problems he had in 2008" There was a dark side to Mitt Romney's close finish in the Iowa caucuses. After first approaching Iowa with reservation and then scrambling hard in the final weeks to win, he was on track to leave here with about the same share of votes he snagged four years ago in the Republican presidential caucuses. LINK

RICK SANTORUM: Politico's James Hohmann: " Iowa caucus results: Reality check coming for Santorum" Rick Santorum just shocked the political world. But now what? He doesn't have the money or infrastructure to keep up with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, and he hasn't been in South Carolina since Nov. 12. A national fund-raising surge is imminent - and his name will top the headlines for the next several days - but he's going to have to dramatically expand his campaign apparatus virtually overnight. LINK

IOWAN VOTERS: The Washington Times' Stephen Dinan: " Iowans press candidates on same issues that concern Republicans across country" Iowa's caucuses may not always pick the eventual presidential nominee, but voters this year did something more helpful to the process: They asked the kinds of tough questions about the economy and government spending that are on the minds of Republicans across the country who still have yet to vote. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEOS: " Iowa Caucuses: Romney Neck-and-Neck with Santorum" LINK   " Michele Bachmann: 'We Will Go On'" LINK

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