A Cuban exile expert weighs in on Sen. Marco Rubio’s behalf. “In the Cuban exile community, there are many stories like Marco Rubio’s family. Many children of exiles don’t know precisely what dates their parents left Cuba, went back to Cuba or ultimately determined Cuba was heading in the wrong direction under Castro. But they do know that the reason they were born in the United States or now live here is because their parents are exiles because they refused to raise them in Castro’s Cuba.” (Rubio wrote his own powerful defense as well.)

John Dickerson wonders whether Mitt Romney can win the Iowa caucuses. “Romney has a chance to do well in Iowa because he starts with a solid base of available voters. He won 26 percent of the vote in 2008. . . . .Romney has one of the best organizations in Iowa, but it’s hidden. The theory is that if it stays active but under the radar, it can make a smash-and-grab at the last minute if the environment is right.” One more factor: The leader in the polls, Herman Cain, is falling apart.

Rick Santorum could wreck the prospects of Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) with a strong showing in Iowa. “As Rick Santorum makes his final push to the Iowa caucuses, he’s improbably positioning his campaign to continue deeper into 2012 than some much better-known, better-funded rivals. He’s doing it by quietly working the ground game and loudly attacking any of his rivals who enjoy even a moment in the spotlight. It’s a two-pronged strategy that hasn’t lifted the longtime political tactician and former Pennsylvania senator from the back, and no one expects him to win the GOP nomination. But it’s won him respect in Iowa, the only state that matters to his campaign over the next couple of months. Most Republicans now agree he’s within striking distance of an important consolation prize: the last ticket out of Iowa.”

The Romney camp wishes every day were debate day. “Mitt Romney’s camp is out with a memo from pollster Neil Newhouse highlighting that the five debates of the fall season seemed to impact a precipitous drop in Rick Perry’s polling in early primary and caucus states. . . . The bottom line, says Newhouse, is: “Debates matter. During this period of time the only thing that mattered was how the candidates stacked up against one another in the debates. Governor Perry lost two-thirds of his support in the early states, placing him in a tie for third place with Congressman Ron Paul.”

I’m not sure that Cain wants to win. Each “clarification” is worse than the last one. Phil Klein: “ ‘I do not think abortion should be legal in this country,’ Cain said on Fox [on Friday]. ‘Abortion should not be legal. That is clear. But if a family made the decision to break the law, that’s that family’s decision.’ On its face, it’s completely bizarre for a presidential candidate to say that families should decide whether they want to break the law, but either way, it’s difficult to square with previous comments.”

When Senate Democrats wander from the party line, they jeopardize Obama’s political scheme. “Democratic defections and a united Republican front are hampering President Obama’s message on the economy. Last week and again Thursday night, there were a couple of Democratic defections on Obama’s jobs measure. And despite a veto threat from the White House, 10 Democrats voted for a GOP alternative. The lack of a united front is complicating a key part of Obama’s reelection strategy of running against Washington, and Congress in particular.”

Fred and Kim Kagan do not welcome the president's retreat from Iraq. They explain that “our efforts in Iraq end neither in victory nor defeat, success nor failure, but simply in retreat. The humiliation of this retreat is compounded by the dishonesty of its presentation. Today, President Obama claimed that the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq was the centerpiece of the strategy he has been pursuing there since taking office. . . . Above all, today’s announcement is the definitive renunciation of any attempt to ‘forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq.’ In other words, the president has failed to achieve any of the objectives that he established as his own policy in February 2009 — apart, of course, from withdrawing U.S. military forces.”

I wager no one (other than liberal columnists) would miss Jon Huntsman if he never showed up to another debate. Peter Wehner agrees: “Apparently GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who boycotted this week’s debate in Las Vegas and is now pulling in roughly one percent of the vote among Republicans, was ‘totally embarrassed — completely embarrassed by the lack of seriousness’ he witnessed on Tuesday night. Which I suppose evens things up, since almost every Republican I know is embarrassed by Jon Huntsman. The highlight of the debate, at least for me, was not having to listen to Huntsman for nearly two hours. My hope is that he’s so embarrassed by the GOP field that he boycotts the rest of the debates before dropping out and becoming a political analyst for MSNBC.” I’ll second that.

Lawmakers must work hard at coming up with ideas this bad. “Should taxpayers continue to guarantee personal McMansions, even as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have lost $142 billion and counting? Homeowners who lived through the recent government-backed housing boom and bust would say no, but for Senate Democrats and a clutch of Republicans in hock to the housing lobby, the answer is a resounding yes. That’s a reference to Thursday night’s 60-38 vote in favor of a measure to raise ‘conforming loan limits’ for Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Housing Administration to $729,750 in certain markets for two more years.”