Iowa nice

SUMMARY: In the final Republican debate, Rudy Giuliani used some creative new math to exagerrate his record on adoptions, while Fred Thompson was on target about taxes. At the Democratic debate, we didn't find much to check. The talk was gentle and straightforward.

They call it "Iowa nice," the tendency of Iowans to be friendly and civil — and expect the same from their presidential candidates. That may explain why the Dec. 12 Republican debate was so bland (the New York Times called it a "sleepy affair;" the Washington Post headline called it "lifeless"). The Dec. 13 Democratic debate was more of the same.

With the campaigns preparing for an unofficial cease-fire over the holidays, the candidates played it safe. After all, Iowans know who's been naughty and who's been nice.

We checked the candidates' claims:

* Rudy Giuliani found a new way to exaggerate his record on adoptions. Instead of reciting the 65-70 percent increase he's used before, this time he said he'd boosted them by 135 percent. We find that claim to be Barely True .

* Fred Thompson made a bold statement on taxes, including saying that "40 percent of Americans pay no income taxes." Would you believe it? That's True .

* Chris Dodd was practically quoting a U.S. Census report when he said 37-million Americans are living in poverty. No surprise, we ruled his claim True .

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