NEW YORK (
) -- Americans are in the spirit of giving over the holidays, but the good news is that our politicians are in the spirit of taking.
That's right, U.S. political leaders build their support on mounds of promises, but there's a catch -- for their long-run promises, they want your immediate vote.
Though the 2012 election season is by the people and for the people, the reality is that the candidates make it all about themselves.
So it's time that we step back for the holidays and acknowledge their needs. After all, politicians fought for us in 2011 to raise the debt ceiling and pass a temporary extension of the payroll tax cut.
One payroll tax cut extension
President Obama got his holiday gift early --a temporary extension of the payroll tax cut. But it might have been an unexpected gift.
After the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan extension on the payroll tax cut -- the White House said it would save the average American family making $50,000 a year about $40 per paycheck --
House Republicans rejected the measure and demanded a long-term deal.
Obama couldn't have planned it any better: Republicans who had fought all year against raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans were suddenly striking down a tax break to middle-class citizens. The president took the opportunity
to blast his Republican House colleagues.
"This is exactly why people get so frustrated with Washington," Obama said Thursday. "Has this place become so dysfunctional that when even people agree to something we can't do it?"
House Speaker John Boehner rallied the GOP to approve the measure, but it could come at a political cost in 2012.
"Sometimes it's politically difficult to do the right thing," Boehner said when asked if he thought he had caved on the agreement.
A stocking full of conservative backers
Anybody but Romney, the conservative base of Republicans has jeered throughout the 2012 GOP race.
Party faithful have pounded Romney for many of his "liberal" policies when he was the governor of Massachusetts -- health care, abortion and same sex marriage are just a few of the platforms held against him.
It hasn't helped that Romney has been surrounded by some fairly conservative politicians like Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.
But the resurgent frontrunner has received a number of conservative rubber stamps in recent weeks ahead of the Iowa caucuses, with the biggest coming from the 41st president of the United States,
George H. W. Bush.
A mound of cash for spending
Gingrich, the former House speaker, surged unhindered to the top of national and state polls in November on fine debate performances and gaffe's by his opponents, but he began to drop significantly as candidates ramped up ground campaigns in Iowa.
Gingrich has a presence in the state, but in a series of emails to supporters he asked for more donations to help his campaign against negative attack ads from his competitors.
Some Iowa Republicans say that
negative attacks will eventually backfire and make voters feel sympathy for Gingrich. Negative campaign attacks will reportedly stop for the holiday weekend, but Gingrich still needs more funding to parlay his plummet.
An Iowa caucus victory
Sure, all the other candidates want an Iowa caucus victory, but Ron Paul wants it bad.
He has poured extensive resources into the state, and a first place finish would almost certainly catapult Paul's cult status into the mainstream long enough to
make him competitive for gaining delegates through all the primaries.
Polls right now say that Paul is a favorite among Iowans. If he takes the state, he might be a favorite among much more than that.
The attention of 99 counties
Santorum has canvased Iowa's 99 counties longer than he's spent in his home state of Pennsylvania. Or so it seems, at least.
The former senator has worked tirelessly to shake hands and give speeches throughout Iowa as he has trailed significantly since polling in the state began.
But Santorum hopes that he will
garner attention around Christmas dinner tables this weekend as families and friends flesh out their final decisions on who to select in the caucuses.
Heck, Santorum would even be OK with a
A handful of respect
One Iowa Republican Party county chair told me that Rick Perry's wife said Perry didn't need to run for president, and that they could go back to their lives before the 2012 race and be happy. The county chair added that Anita Perry said her husband ran for president to help Americans.
epic "oops" gaffe, Perry was effectively written off as a serious candidate. Poll numbers dropped, and media coverage turned to his every mistake.
Now Perry, who is cash rich and does have a fervent base of support, is looking to regain respect from voters. He's hit the road and been on the campaign trail selling himself for weeks.
The Texas governor has seen a slight uptick in the polls, which could signal that he's started to earn back voters respect.
A deck of cards
Bachmann finds herself in similar territory to Santorum. If the congresswoman can finish in the top four, or better yet, the top three, she could take her campaign through New Hampshire and ride on high hopes for South Carolina -- where she has campaigned a bit.
But Bachmann needs momentum to swing immediately. Should she draw a wild card, Iowans might take notice of her social conservative message and her Tea Party appeal and catapult her into the discussion.
Bachmann is in the midst of a rigorous ground campaign, going through all 99 Iowa counties in less than a month. Hey, maybe it will work. Like we said, a wild card. It just takes one.
A New Hampshire New Year's Miracle
To Huntsman's credit, he has campaigned as well as anyone in New Hampshire. That's impressive when one considers Romney's formidable ground game there and his significant funding in the state.
Though he has spent almost every penny on New Hampshire, Huntsman still finds himself behind Romney, Paul and Gingrich in major state polls.
Huntsman could reasonably leapfrog Paul and Gingrich as three weeks still remain until the primary. Romney would have to do something outrageous (or a campaign killing story would have to surface) in order for Huntsman to win New Hampshire.
Huntsman's low funding means that he likely has to win New Hampshire in order to stay in the race. Romney's been under a microscope since 2007, and it seems unlikely that he'll fall off a cliff any time soon.
-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.