All Apologies: Mitt Romney’s Numbers, The Iowa Question and a Tired, Overworked CBO: Since the AM Note

ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf ( @zbyronwolf)  reports on what you missed in politics and the ABC Politics page since the AM Note:

All apologies – There were two of them today:

Mr. “ No Apology” Mitt Romney was sorry for not being more forcefully behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich on collective bargaining ahead of a Nov. 8 th referendum.

Rick Perry said he was just joking about, President Obama’s birth Certificate. “Lighten Up!”

Newt Gingrich refused to apologize for his wife Callista shopping again at Tiffany’s. “Isn’t that stupid?” Gingrich told “These are stores that have a wide range of things you can buy. She has girlfriends with birthdays.”

Once and Future Frontrunner? – Amy Walter points out that new polling from CNN/TIME/ORC finds Mitt Romney either ahead or statistically tied for the lead in key early states of FL, IA, SC and NH.

So he has withstood brief stances on top by Bachmann, Perry and Cain. His biggest lead, according to the poll, is in Florida, where he’s got 40 percent support. He’s got 30 percent in Florida and is two or three points ahead of Cain in Iowa and South Carolina.

That means taking a powder in Iowa would not look very good for the guy who is currently in the lead.

Iowhat – Our Matt Jaffe will turn his focus there tomorrow. It’s the first state to decide on a GOP candidate. But also the most wide-open. What gives, Iowa?

For all the coverage of Rick Perry 2.0, he’s 4 th in South Carolina and Florida, 5 th in Iowa and 6 th in New Hampshire. And that ad he released in Iowa? Turns out it was missing something. An FEC disclosure. It had to be updated.

5 Fingered Tax Deduction –  Bachmann accused Perry of lifting her tax plan, with its optional flat tax, according to our Russell Goldman.  But Newt had one of those too, and long before Bachmann’s October rollout. They’re not stealing, but piling on Ron Paul’s economic plan.

Newt’s Boomlet – Gingrich had his optional flat tax plan way back in the Summer. And he’s a tick ahead of Perry in the early primary states. That made our Sarah Kunin take a look at whether there’s a bit of a New Gingrich Boomlet going on.

Kind of Partial – It felt like an endorsement event today in Fairfax, Virginia. But all Mitt could get out of Gov. Bob McDonnell was an “I’m kind of partial.”

McDonnell did gush over Romney but he didn’t endorse, according to our Emily Friedman. You you will hear McDonnell mentioned as a potential VP candidate for whoever is the GOP nomination.

Perry’s Twitter How-To: And Arlette Saenz found this gem of a how-to on social media from @rickperry.

Student Loans and You – What effect, if any, will the President’s new student loans initiative have on you? From Huma Khan – “While more than 36 million Americans have federal student loan debt, less than 450,000 Americans participate in income-based repayment, according to the White House.”

Hey Super Committee, Thanksgiving is comin’ up – The sub rosa action at the super committee might just be the most interesting thing going on today. Yes, the super committee was out in public today (rare sighting).  But it was the leaking of a Democratic proposal for $3 trillion in deficit reduction with Medicare cuts and $1.3 trillion in Medicare that had ears perking.

No comment from Republicans on the committee. John Parkinson’s report.

You can imagine they’re starting to pull their hair out at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, where people who are good with numbers have to figure out what effect that kind of thing will have on the economy and the social safety net takes time.

CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf had this reprimand for the Super Committee: “Our legion of skilled analysts are working very hard for this committee already,” Elmendorf said. “If you have a set of proposals that would make changes across a range of mandatory spending programs, then that would require us some weeks to work with legislative counsel and the staff of this committee in refining the legislative language to accomplish the objectives that your setting out to accomplish, and then for us to produce a cost estimate, and backing up from Thanksgiving, that left us looking at the beginning of November, which we are very aware, as you are Congressman, is not very far away.”

More on the CBO later.

Food Stamp Challenge – Rep. Joe Courtney and his family are living on a food stamp budget this week.

That’s $32.59 per person, per week, or $1.59 per meal, and  blogging and  tweeting about the process, according to our Katie Bosland, who spoke to the congressman while he was on his third cup of tea this morning with the same tea bag. Lunch was a cheese sandwich, carrot sticks and an apple.

Courtney opposes cuts to food stamps – SNAP benefits, as they’re now called. There are arguments against increasing food stamps. Jeff Sessions gave them to us last week.

The Rich are (a whole lot) Richer – But Courtney’s food-stamp challenge is a nice book-end to the report from the CBO that income of the richest 1 percent in the U.S. soared 275 percent from 1979 to 2007, but the bottom 20 percent grew by just 18 percent, new government data shows.

(This was the first and probably last time that the ABC News DC Digital operation got an urgent request for a story on the CBO report).

Blowin’ Smoke – Herman Cain’s odd smoking ad continues to delight. There were no fewer than four late-night comedy parodies and a dedicated Twitter satire. Our roundup from Alexa Keyes.

Plugged Up  - But really you should have been watching Nightline, where Brian Ross had an expose on the Obama administration’s robust backing of luxury electric cars.

Airbill: $1 million  - Yes, he’s the only sitting lawmaker to be running for president and voting often. But Ron Paul is also the candidate to spend the most on private air travel (not counting Obama, clearly). This from Jason Volack.

Cringe-worthy – Jon Huntsman was on Top Line and went after Mitt Romney for “leading from behind.” He said Perry’s birtherism this week make him “cringe.” He said that kind of talk is going to lose Republicans independents.

“And when we get off on those fringe issues, we lose the independents in particular. The independents are looking for a home, and the independents largely are gonna drive the outcome of the election,” he said.  The problem for Huntsman is that independents don’t play much of a role in the Republican primary.

More Top Line from Rick Klein.