* Top Romney operative admits ad attacking Obama was “propaganda”: This one should be seen as a defining moment for Campaign 2012. Check out the new defense of that dishonest ad attacking Obama that a top anomymous Romney campaign operative has now given to the New York Times’ Tom Edsall:

“First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business ... Ads are agitprop ... Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context ... All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.”

If Edsall says this person is a major figure in the campaign, you can count on that to be true — it’s almost certainly a message the Romney team wants out there. So here you have it: The Romney camp’s standard for accuracy and fairness seems to be that there is no need for any such standard, because all ads are by definition “manipulative” and “propaganda.”

But come on: You can make an assertion or depiction designed to persuade that also happens to be ... true. Indeed, when Romney’s own ad showed Obama saying, “I am confident that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis,” it was an honest rendering of Obama’s words, even though its inclusion was designed to persuade. When the ad showed Obama claiming that talking about the economy was bad for him politically, when in fact he was quoting a McCain adviser saying that, it was flatly dishonest.

Similarly, when the DNC accused Romney of changing his position on abortion to persuade viewers that he’s a flip flopper, that charge was true. But when the DNC accused Romney of changing his position on the stimulus, that was a distortion, albeit not as serious as Romney’s. Are there some cases that aren't clear cut? Sure, but we should still strive to separate fact from fiction, and to make judgment calls when the lines are fuzzy.

Between this new quote and their boast that the ad’s mangling of context was strategically brilliant because it won reams of media attention, it almost seems as if Romney advisers are trying to persuade political reporters and commentators to abandon any standards they might use to judge tactics and rhetoric throughout this campaign. Of course, one would hope this will have the opposite effect. And one would hope it will help counter the inevitable claims that “both sides” are engaging in equivalent levels of dishonesty. As Paul Krugman notes, the false equivalence game is already underway.

* Obama reelect reality check of the day: With unemployment dropping last month, Scott Cement demonstrates in three charts that the public may not perceive the economy to be getting better, even if is indeed improving. A key dynamic to keep an eye on.

* Dems to crank up pressure on payroll tax cut: Harry Reid is set to introduce still another proposal to extend the payroll tax cut, this one containing a compromise on how to pay for it.

As I reported on Friday, Dems are hoping that the lack of support among Senate Republicans for the GOP proposal will make it easier for Dems to peel off moderate Republicans and get them to support a Dem-proposed compromise.

* Obama to campaign aggressively for Richard Cordray: Good:The White House is signaling that it will campaign hard for the nomination of Richard Cordray to the top post at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It’s another sign that the Obama team is betting that resurgent populism and anger at Wall Street will be key to the political environment next year.

* Dems defining Romney as career politician: The DNC is out with a new Web video that recaps Romney’s four runs for political office and contrasts that with his recent claim that “I didn’t spend my life in politics.”

Dems don’t want Romney to successfully create the impression that he would bring a private sector outsider’s perspective to government and the economy.

* Newt-mentum in Iowa!!! With the latest Des Moines Register poll showing Newt Gingrich taking the lead with Romney falling to third place, Gingrich is now going up on the air in the state with a new ad that’s all positive, positive, positive.

The ad’s soft focus seems designed to erase any lingering sense of Newt’s sharp edges, and the emphasis on faith, freedom, and nostalgia about American greatness is a pitch to the social conservatives who drive Iowa caucuses.

Also: MSNBC’s Mark Murray cites new polls showing Gingrich surging in Iowa , and concludes that he’s taken control in the state.

* Can Romney win on the ground? Mitt Romney is counting on organization to overcome Newt’s surge in Iowa, but GOP strategist Matthew Dowd debunks the myth that organization is the key to success in the caucuses, and says Romney is now officially in serious trouble.

* In Gingrich surge, GOP reaping what it sowed: E.J. Dionne makes the key point about the panic in GOP establishment circles about Gingrich’s sudden frontrunner status:

The Republican establishment, such as it is, is essentially powerless. It sold its soul to the Tea Party, sat by silently as extremist rhetoric engulfed the GOP and figured that swing voters would eventually overlook all this to cast votes against a bad economy. That’s still Romney’s bet; yet his failure to break through suggests the right wing will not be trifled with. Republican leaders unleashed forces that may eat their party alive. And the only Republican really enjoying what’s happening is Newt Gingrich.

* Could Newt be a tough general election candidate? Dems privately believe that Gingrich would have advantages that Romney wouldn’t: He doesn’t have Romney’s Wall Street baggage, would excite the conservative base while Romney might depress it, and isn’t utterly lacking in an ideological core.

* And some very tough questions for Obama defenders: Glenn Greenwald asks some very tough questions of those defending the Obama administration’s new justifications for targeting American citizens for assassination.

What else is happening?