Herewith, a few bits and pieces from the last few days.

--A couple of different projections, using the new 2006 US Census numbers, both predict that Massachusetts will lose at least one congressional seat from reapportionment, which will take place after the official 2010 census. No surprise there.

--Mitt Romney's distant-third-place showing in new Iowa and NH polls has been reported as bad news for him, but I have a different interpretation. Romney's short-term goal is not to catch Giuliani and McCain (or even Gingrich) in the polls -- their name-recognition alone makes that impossible for the moment -- but to stand out from the other second-tier wannabes. So far, he's clearly succeeding in a huge huge way. The poll of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers has Romney at 9 percent, while Pataki, Brownback, Huckabee, Thompson, and Hagel each failed to get past 1%. The New Hampshire poll had very similar numbers.

--Deval Patrick named his Transportation secretary Saturday, continuing his policy of making appointments at times when they will get little public scrutiny. It also continues a trend of floating one name for a position in the press and then naming someone else. (In this case, Jim Aloisi was floated.)

--The new (Jan. 1) issue of The New Republic has a very bad likeness of Mitt Romney on the cover, imposed before a Mormon church with the headline: "A Mormon in the White House? Why Religion Matters." The article is by Damon Linker, author of The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege, so you know where he's coming from. Unfortunately, Linker's article is pretty useless as an examination of whether Romney's religion actually matters -- his main concern is that since the president of the Latter-Day Saints is considered "the mouthpiece of God on Earth," Romney theoretically would be obligated to follow any of that president's crazy orders, meaning that, if Romney takes his religion far more seriously than his country, and if the Mormon leaders suddenly and uncharacteristically decide to start giving such orders, "under a President Romney, the Church of Latter-Day Saints would truly be in charge of the country." That's not much help in any serious debate. But it is a potential insight into the way Mitt's opponents might try to use the issue. So are some of the wacky Mormonisms that Linker trots out, such as the LDS dismissal of all Christianity between Christ and Joseph Smith as "apostasy," and Smith's revelation that the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri.

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