After months of near-silence, the ad wars began in earnest last week. In Iowa, set to vote on Jan. 3, the battle quickly went negative, with Texas Gov. Rick Perry hammering the GOP race’s front-runners for supporting an individual mandate on health insurance and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) throwing the kitchen sink at former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.).

Here’s a look at four ads from the political week that was.

The ad: “Strong,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The message: “You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. . . . I’ll end Obama’s war on religion.”

The takeaway: Perry is aiming straight at the evangelical vote in Iowa with a spot that focuses on his faith. The attack on President Obama and on gays in the military is drawing negative headlines nationally but could help Perry among Iowa Republicans searching for a down-the-line conservative to get behind. There are some indications that Perry’s heavy spending is starting to pay dividends in Iowa, so expect more messaging like this from the Texas governor.

The ad: “Leader,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The message: “I’ve been married to the same woman for . . . 42 years, I’ve been in the same church my entire life; I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years.”

The takeaway: Romney has insisted that this ad isn’t a dig at Gingrich, but it’s hard not to read the emphasis on constancy as a dig at the thrice-married Catholic convert. Filled with old family videos, the spot also helps humanize a candidate often criticized as too stiff.

The ad: “Serial Hypocrisy,” Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

The message: “Everything that Gingrich railed against when he was in the House, he went the other way when he got paid to go the other way.”

The takeaway: When the Texas Republican congressman makes an attack ad, he doesn’t pull any punches. This hard-edged spot takes on Gingrich’s past support for an individual health care mandate and mentions the money he made as an adviser to Freddie Mac. It’s airing in Iowa, a sign that Paul thinks he has a real chance to take down Gingrich there if he can peel off conservatives.

The ad: “Obamacare,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The message: “We don’t want government-mandated health care. Yet Newt Gingrich supports it. And Mitt Romney? He put it into law in Massachusetts.”

The takeaway: Perry is still fighting. This ad takes on Gingrich and Romney, pointing out that both have supported individual mandates to buy health insurance in the past. Then it cuts to President Obama, implicitly arguing that the health-care law he signed is an extension of the two Republicans’ efforts. While the front-runners duke it out, Perry is showing he’s got the money to stay in the game.