A big get for Mitt Romney. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) endorses him in his must-win state.

A big list of items to defend on Newt Gingrich’s Web site. “Among other things, it defends his support of ethanol subsidies and clarifies his current position on climate change policy. The former Speaker, and his advocates, have also begun to champion his record as Speaker of the House (before he was forced to resign). Gingrich’s record here is certainly worth a look. And while his campaign is seeking to clarify the record, it would be nice to know what the Speaker thinks about his decision to undercut property-rights advocates and deep-six meaningful Endangered Species Act reform. . . . Did the Speaker really oppose greater protections for private property rights? Or was this a failed effort to curry favor with environmentalist leaders? Were his actions a mistake? Or does he still believe this was the proper course and that the Endangered Species Act is a defensible law?”

A big shift in Syria. “Insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades at the offices of the ruling Baath Party in Damascus on Sunday in a highly symbolic strike that signaled a new chapter in the eight-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. . . . Military defectors and armed insurgents have carried out attacks on government installations since the start of the uprising eight months ago, but the attack in Damascus on Sunday was the first to strike at the heart of the government’s base.”

A big gap in presidential leadership will cause the supercommittee to fail, says Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): “Sen. Joe Manchin . . . said that ‘failure cannot be accepted’ on a deficit-reduction deal, and was critical of President Obama for not having taken a greater leadership role to assure a deal was struck. ‘If it doesn’t work, then nobody’s done enough on this,’ Manchin said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’ ‘He’s the leader of this great country, and we want him to step forward.’ Although Manchin said he did not want to play the “blame game”, he was critical of the president and congressional leaders for playing politics with the debt.”

A big deal, if Mike Huckabee gets behind him. “Mike Huckabee tells WABC’s Aaron Klein . . . that grass-roots conservatives should rally around Mitt Romney if he’s the nominee . . . . ‘It would be real tragic if they stayed out. Mitt Romney may not be their first choice, but Mitt Romney every day of the week and twice on Sunday is going to be a much more effective president for issues that they care about than Barack Obama. I think sometimes there is this anxiety within the Republican Party of who is the perfect candidate. The answer is there isn’t one.”

A big problem, if GOP voters have already made up their minds about Texas Gov. Rick Perry. “All the ads in the world can’t convince voters to back a candidate they’ve already concluded isn’t qualified for the job. And though he has the money to stay on the air and give Mitt Romney a run for his money, Perry may have crossed that threshold with too many voters.”

A big flop. Herman Cain blew it at the Family Leader’s forum. “The Georgia businessman needed to clarify his abortion stance . . . Cain was given the opportunity to take a strong stand. He failed. When asked if he would pursue a federal law or constitutional amendment banning abortion, Cain said, ‘If it gets to my desk I will sign it.’ That was a weak answer in front of 2,500 evangelicals. They want a president who will fight for pro-life legislation. Also, a president does not sign constitutional amendments. I wonder if Cain knows that. He was then asked if he would ‘push hard’ for such a bill. Cain said it would be ‘one of the things’ he would work on. Again, weak. Cain’s answers were much shorter and less detailed than any other candidate’s.”

A big disappointment for the social conservative establishment in Iowa is very possible. “If Mitt Romney manages to win the caucuses with the kind of half-hearted effort he has put into the state so far — all the while ignoring would-be kingmakers — the whole supposition that future candidates must spend every other day in the Hawkeye State for months and years before votes are cast will be significantly undermined. A Ron Paul win, meanwhile, would simply be a testament to his own permanent following, not to any Iowa-specific factor, and would also waste Iowa’s endorsement, since there’s no chance he’ll win the nomination. And even if Cain or Gingrich come out on top, it too will prove the irrelevance of directly courting Iowa’s social conservative leaders: Their surges in state polls are a result of the national appeal they generated through debate performances, not through their practically nonexistent ground-games in Iowa.”