* Chutzpah alert: Mitt Romney complains that the Dem ads attacking him took “snippets” of his words “out of context,” only days after the Romney ad attacking Obama was widely cited for reaching new frontiers of dishonesty in this regard.

* David Firestone does a nice job explaining why Republicans are “boxed in” on the payroll tax cut extension:

Of all the contortions they’ve been forced to make by their refusal to raise taxes on the rich, this is the most painful. It is the one that will affect average Americans the most directly, and will starkly illustrate the advantage Republicans prefer giving to the rich over everyone else...it will play directly into Democratic hopes of shaping next year’s election around the increasingly popular theme of income inequality.

* Speaking of boxed in: Mitch McConnell now predicts that a majority of Republicans will support the payroll tax cut extension, though he says they’ll introduce their own proposal to pay for it.

* Pat Garofalo notes some important context about the GOP refusal to extend the payroll tax cut if it’s funded with a millionaire surtax: This comes even as tax revenues, and taxes on the rich, are at historic lows.

* Jake Tapper presses the White House on whether the payroll tax cut extension will jeopardize Social Security, and gets an extensive answer.

* As Steve Benen notes, it’s good to see that Dems are now spelling out clearly that in some key ways Republicans have been getting their way on the economy for many months, to no avail. Austerity is failing.

* Interesting point from Katrina Vanden Heuvel — if anything, the left has been too supportive of Obama, and not independent enough from him, to his own detriment:

Obama was hurt because progressives were too loyal rather than that they were too critical. Certainly that was the conclusion drawn by everyone from the AFL-CIO to Moveon.org to the activists of Occupy Wall Street. In a famous scene, the president told the 13 biggest bankers that he stood “between them and the pitchforks.” But there wasn’t sufficient evidence of an independent movement on the left — with or without pitchforks — to alarm the banksters.

* Newt-mentum!!! Gallup finds Gingrich leading the GOP field in “positive intensity” among Republican voters, a measure of favorable feeling, while Mitt Romney’s is at its lowest point of the year.

* Why Herman Cain’s implosion is bad news for Romney: Voters looking for an alternative to Mitt (such as Cain supporters) are likely to coalesce around Newt.

* Remember when Republicans used to love the individual mandate? As recently as 2005, Newt Gingrich was passionately speaking out on behalf of the mandate, and even envisioning a “300-million payer system.”

* Dan Balz illuminates Romney’s multi-leveled strategic calculations on how to win the GOP nomination, and ponders one of the primary’s mysteries: Why haven’t his rivals laid a glove on him?

* I’m still a bit skeptical it will happen, but ABC News has some evidence that the drive to recall Scott Walker is moving surprisingly quickly.

* The incredible shrinking Tea Party: Pew finds that more Americans nationally now disagree with the Tea Party than agree with it — with agreement plummetting even in Tea Party districts.

* And Dave Weigel finds some evidence that Newt’s silly schoolyard taunts about Occupy Wall Street will play really well with conservative voters, which, if true, will say a lot more about Newt and those voters than it does about the protests.

What else is happening?