If you're just returning to TNR.com after taking a holiday vacation, welcome back! You've missed an exciting week of wall-to-wall campaign coverage. Jason Zengerle kicked it off by reporting from John McCain's back-to-the-future resurgence in New Hampshire (mirrored, to a lesser degree, in Iowa), and followed it up with a look at John Edwards's efforts to reach out to middle-class Granite State voters (a subject Jonathan Cohn, also on the ground in New Hampshire, tackled as well). Meanwhile, Cass Sunstein and Sean Wilentz continued their dialogue about the press's enthusiasm for Barack Obama, Dana Goldstein weighed in on Obama's efforts to reach out to women, Michael Currie Schaffer discussed the real reason to be concerned about his past drug use, Martin Peretz blogged about the racial significance of his campaign, and drama critic Jeremy McCarter evaluated Obama's appearance on "Meet the Press": "Is he more like a rookie next to tested veterans, or young Mozart in a crowd of Salieris?" Most critically, some high-level Photoshop work revealed Obama's heretofore undiagnosed resemblance to Popeye (hit refresh if the photo doesn’t immediately load). On the Republican front, Jonathan Chait peered into (sub. req’d) the seedy underbelly of Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm and Alan Wolfe expounded upon (sub. req’d) the culture of Mormon prosperity surrounding Mitt Romney.
Our main focus, of course, was in Iowa, where Stumpers Michael Crowley, Noam Scheiber, and Eve Fairbanks rang in the new year crisscrossing the state. Scheiber dissected Obama's closing argument and appeal to non-traditional caucusgoers, as well as Mitt Romney's stump speech and decision to go negative. Crowley examined the "disaster" that is Fred Thompson's final pre-caucus push, found out that some Iowans seem to have bought into the notion that Barack Obama is Muslim, and reported that the Hillary campaign has finally figured out how to get Bill to stay on message--which, Scheiber says, makes him a pretty effective weapon. Fairbanks watched Michelle Obama impress a roomful of seniors, mused on the Iowa GOP's obsession with immigration, and took a look inside the world of Ron Paul's adoring undergraduate supporters, the Deaniacs of '08.
Events in the rest of the world, needless to say, didn't come to a standstill just because the caucuses are imminent. The site had a distinctly South Asian flavor this week, between Josh Kurlantzick's analysis of the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto (whose impact on Iowa E.J. Dionne Jr. examined), Amartya Sen's lengthy essay (sub. req’d) on the consequences of British colonialism in India, and Samanth Subramanian's complaint about awful journalism in India. On the Latin American beat, Alvaro Vargas Llosa waxed pessimistic about the prospects of Cristina Fern