The Note's Must-Reads for Monday, August 8, 2011

Compiled by ABC News Digital News Associate Jacqueline Ng Fernandez, Jayce Henderson and Desk Assistant Amanda VanAllen

2012 ELECTIONS: The Hills’ Cameron Joseph: “ Candidates face crucial test in Ames straw poll” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are running hard in Iowa in the lead-up to next Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll. Both have much to lose if they underperform expectations and don’t win or finish a close second in the state. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) is also expected to do well, further increasing the pressure on the Minnesotans. LINK

Politico’s Molly Ball: “ All eyes turn to Ames” The most important week of the 2012 presidential race so far begins now. Whatever happens in Thursday’s debate and Saturday’s straw poll in Ames, the Republican field is likely to be narrowed. No candidate will come out of Ames the same as he or she went in. Some may not come out at all. And one will emerge as the top challenger to Mitt Romney, whose decision not to compete in the straw poll turned the voting largely into a contest between Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann. LINK

The Wall Street Journal’s Patrick O’ Connor: “ Straw Poll Will Begin GOP Winnowing Process” Thousands of Iowa Republicans will converge on the college city of Ames this Saturday to cast ballots in a straw poll of the GOP presidential field. The event, held amid barbecue and country bands, does not allocate any of the delegates that candidates need to win the nomination, and it has not been a reliable predictor of who will win the state's presidential caucuses next year. LINK

PRAYER: ABC News’ Arlette Saenz: “ Rick Perry Leads Crowd in Praying for the Nation” Texas Governor Rick Perry invigorated the crowd at "The Response" today, reading scripture passages and leading more than 30,000 people in prayer. “Like all of you, I love this country deeply,” Perry said. “The only thing that you love more is the living Christ.” LINK

Los Angeles Times’ Paul West: “ Gov. Rick Perry leads Christians in prayer at Texas rally” With Rick Perry likely to enter the Republican presidential race within days or weeks, thousands of fundamentalist Christians cheered the Texas governor Saturday at a stadium prayer rally that appeared to boost his standing with religious conservatives, a key GOP voting bloc. Perry organized the daylong service of prayer and fasting, featuring appearances by prominent figures on the Christian right. LINK

GEITHNER / CREDIT DOWNGRADE: The Washington Post’s Zachary Goldfarb: “ Geithner tells Obama he will remain as Treasury Secretary” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has told President Obama he plans to remain in his job through the fall of 2012, keeping in place Obama’s longest-serving economic adviser after the first-ever U.S. credit downgrade and renewed fears of a second recession. LINK

The Washington Times’ Ben Wolfgang: “ Democrats seek to pin credit downgrade on tea party” While continuing to cast doubt on the credibility of Standard & Poor’s, several Democrats on Sunday said there is an even greater culprit in the downgrade of the nation’s credit rating: the tea party. LINK

OTHER: The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “ Huntsman Runs on a Path His Father Cleared” Jon M. Huntsman Jr. was 10 years old when his father packed up their growing family to move east in 1970, leaving behind his fledgling company to work for President Richard M. Nixon. LINK

USA Todays’ David Jackson: “ Obama gets update on Afghanistan deaths” President Obama followed up today on the weekend helicopter crash that killed 30 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the White House announced: President Obama received a call today from President (Hamid) Karzai of Afghanistan, who reiterated his condolences for the tragic loss of 30 American servicemembers yesterday in Afghanistan. LINK

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