Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrives for a news conference to announce that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had negotiated deal on the payroll tax cut that was set to expire at the end of the year at the U.S. Capitol December 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
The last battle scar of 2011 for the GOP came in December, when House Republicans painted themselves into a corner on extending unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut. The fight exposed the party's internal rifts and the loose control of its leaders.
"A public relations fiasco," one GOP lawmaker called it. They could compromise with the Democrats or allow taxes to go up; neither option palatable to large portions of the majority.
The Arab League sent observers to Syria about a month ago. Their mission: to bear witness to the escalating violence between soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad and armed opposition fighters.
The presence of the orange-vested observers was supposed to discourage the violent crackdown on protesters, but since they arrived in December, almost 1,000 Syrians have died. Overall, it is estimated that more than 5,400 people have been killed since the protests began last March.
With Newt Gingrich beating Mitt Romney in South Carolina as soundly as the Johnny Rebels in 1861 thrashed the Billy Yanks at Bull Run (or the First Battle of Manassas, depending on your view), the Republican presidential nomination contest marches southward to Florida.
There in the Sunshine State, the campaign promises to be an even more hard- fought affair than in South Carolina, with both candidates battling for their party's conservative soul by out-righting each other.
Let's turn now to the other big story we're following today, and that is, of course, the fallout from last night's primary triumph for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. As you know by now, he crushed his opponents, taking 40 percent of the vote, 12 points above his closest rival, the man hitherto known as the front-runner, Mitt Romney.