FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
A Merry Christmas may be harder to come by this holiday season for millions of Americans in light of the slumping economy.
A new CBS News poll shows one in two Americans are concerned they won't be able to afford the holiday gifts they would like to buy.
One-third say they're feeling more stress about holiday spending this year than they have in years past.
And overall, 4 in 10 people say they plan to spend less money on gifts this year than last.
For sure, the holidays are about much more than gift-giving, but how's this for a sign of the times:
Santa Clauses are learning how to lower children's expectations when it comes to their wish lists.
The New York Times has a terrific piece on a well-known Michigan school for Santa Clauses.
The Santas talk about how they size up a family's finances and then try to scale back the child's gift requests.
They talk of parents standing off to the side and shaking their heads no - while the kids sit on their laps asking for expensive toys.
One Santa says the bottom line is to "never promise anything," while others tell the children about slower toy production at the North Pole - or that Santa rarely brings everything on a list.
These Santas are also learning how to answer a question they're hearing more often this days: Can you bring my Mom or Dad a job?
Other children's expectations are running smack into today's economic reality. One boy recently asked a Santa for only one thing - a pair of sneakers that fit.
Here’s my question to you: In light of the economy, how will your holiday season be different this year?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.
The tea leaves are starting to suggest that Mitt Romney might lose yet again. After being the presumed nominee for the past four years and the front-runner among the Republican candidates for the past several months, suddenly he's breathing Newt Gingrich's exhaust fumes.
Take Florida, where Gingrich has shot to the top of the GOP pack. A new poll conducted for the Florida Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville shows Gingrich at 41% - that's as much support as the next four candidates combined. Romney places a distant second in this Florida poll at 17%.
And Gingrich is coming on strong in several of the early voting states as well. In Iowa, one poll shows Gingrich ahead of Romney by seven points. In South Carolina, Gingrich tops Romney by 11 points.
And in New Hampshire, where the former Massachusetts Gov. Romney is a favorite son - Gingrich is also picking up steam. Romney still leads there, but Gingrich is closing the gap.
Meanwhile Gallup polling shows Gingrich's positive intensity score is the highest of any Republican candidate right now, while Romney's is his lowest of the year.
Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt writes that getting Republicans to line up behind Romney is "like trying to stuff a cat into a trash can ... at least one claw always manages to reach out at the last second and cling desperately to the rim."
Hurt suggests the only thing Republicans can agree upon is that they don't want Romney. But it's too soon to know if Hurt is right or wrong.
Here’s my question to you: Is Newt Gingrich's momentum for real?
Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.
Jack Cafferty sounds off hourly on the Situation Room on the stories crossing his radar. Now, you can check in with Jack online to see what he's thinking and weigh in with your own comments online and on TV.
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