The Big Questions: By Mark Halperin

Danny Wilcox Frazier for TIME

In the days before the Iowa caucuses, the candidates blasted one another on local airwaves. Insiders worry that this sniping along with super-PAC-financed ads, will damage the party.

Has Mitt Romney had a happy 2011?

Overall, yes. He entered the year as the Republican front runner, and he exits the same way, somewhat stronger. Although the GOP remains tepid about his candidacy, the former Massachusetts governor has lucked out: he is less a target in the final days of 2011 than rivals Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. With the Iowa caucuses a mess of incongruous agendas and ambiguous significance, win or lose, Romney might be in sight of the nomination before President Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Jan. 24.

Will Obama ring in a jolly...

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