Gov. Rick Perry's (R-Texas) road to the White House in 2012 was supposed to run through South Carolina. But as his campaign faltered — and so did his poll numbers — he withdrew before the state's first-in-the-South primary.

If Perry does run, the state will be critical again to his presidential aspirations, and his biggest coming out party is this week. He picked a holy week to head to the Palmetto State, too — the University of South Carolina Gamecocks are taking on Perry's Texas A&M Aggies tonight in the kickoff to college football season. He's still rooting for his Aggies though — he joked to a Greenville crowd that "You know that I’m a guy who’s not afraid to stand up for what I believe in when I come to Columbia when we are playing the Gamecocks." 

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But Perry obviously headed to South Carolina for more than to catch an exciting football game. Preaching states' rights and standing up to critics, his message is tailor-made for the state's electorate. His recent indictment for alleged abuse of power has only drawn him more fans among the conservative base, and thwarting government is exactly what the GOP base there wants to hear. He can speak with the religious undertones to the Upstate's evangelical voters, is wooing legislators in Columbia and can appeal to the Lowcountry business class by touting his economic record in the Lone Star State. 

Perry's already drawn rave reviews in Iowa and was warmly received even in New Hampshire, a state he skipped last time. He won't take those states for granted again if he runs in 2016, but South Carolina should be a place where Perry shines if he's still standing. And don't be surprised if he becomes a familiar fixture in the Palmetto State over the next year. 

 

SENATE SHOWDOWN

RNC: The Republican National Committee plans to spend an additional $8 million in battleground states in an attempt to boost the party's chances of taking back the Senate.

IA-SEN (OPEN): MoveOn launched a new ad featuring comments Republican Joni Ernst made behind closed doors thanking a gathering of conservative donors and strategists hosted by the Koch brothers, which became public this week when a recording of the conversation was leaked to the press. The ad charges Ernst is in concert with the “group of billionaires” she thanks in the clip on various issues, including privatizing Social Security.

NextGen Climate launched a new ad charging “Joni Ernst’s way” is to “take thousands from Big Oil, push their agenda,” which the ad says hurts the economy in the state.

AK-SEN (BEGICH): VoteVets Action Fund, a veterans advocacy group, plans to launch a $675,000 ad campaign slamming Alaska Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan for backing a local mining project that critics believe could harm the state’s commercial fishing industry. Sullivan is running against incumbent Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska).

NC-SEN (HAGAN): North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis is responding to Democratic attacks that charge he’s cut millions from education funding in a new ad of his own that touts a 7 percent teacher pay raise he says state legislators passed this year, and then ties Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE (D) to Obama.

KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): Kentucky Democratic Senate nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes is facing fresh questions over her campaign bus as a new report reveals the company that owns it lacks the necessary permits required to operate it.

LA-SEN (LANDRIEU): Republicans have seized on news that Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuProject Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' MORE (D-La.) doesn’t own a home in Louisiana, listing her parents’ home on official documents, to raise questions about whether she’s out of touch with the state. 

The senator released a new ad Thursday taking credit for ending the administration’s Gulf of Mexico oil drilling moratorium that followed the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

CO-SEN (UDALL): Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) launched a new Web ad that highlights his role as one of the largest critics of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program in Congress.

GA-SEN (OPEN): Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is targeting her Republican opponent, businessman David Perdue, for his leadership of a company that went bankrupt in a scathing new ad that features the testimony of workers affected by the bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton endorsed Perdue in the race.

AR-SEN (PRYOR): The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a new ad featuring a local resident hitting Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures Five things senators should ask Tom Cotton if he’s nominated to lead the CIA MORE (R-Ark.) on Social Security, while Cotton went up with a spot of his own in which he touts his military background. Meanwhile, Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D) defended an ad in which he tied Cotton’s record in Congress to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, calling it “fair and accurate.”

MN-SEN (FRANKEN): Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenDemocrats turn on Al Franken Schumer called, met with Franken and told him to resign Overnight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 MORE (D) launched a positive new ad in which he touts his bipartisan credentials on jobs, agriculture and Wall Street reform.

 

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE

CA-52 (PETERS): Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) released a new ad that ties Republican Carl Demaio to the Tea Party, featuring clips of a speech he gave to a Tea Party group where he praised the movement as “the conscience of the accountable-government movement" and said he’d owe it “everything” had he won his race for mayor.

IL-13 (DAVIS): Rep. Rodney Davis (R) launched a new ad highlighting his role as coach for a local school football team “when I’m home every weekend,” slamming Congress as only good at “creating problems.”

MA-06 (TIERNEY): Rep. John Tierney (D) is launching his first ad Friday, a positive spot that touts his humble roots and his work on college affordability in Congress. The ad comes as his primary opponent, Marine veteran Seth Moulton, has been attacking him on air.

MN-08 (NOLAN): Rep. Rick Nolan (D) calls for balancing the budget “the right way,” and goes canoeing and hunting in his new ad.

FL-18 (MURPHY): Center Forward, a group supporting centrist Democrats, launched a new ad touting Rep. Patrick Murphy's (D-Fla.) vote for legislation preventing members from getting paid if they fail to pass a budget.

 

 

2016 WATCH

CHRISTIE: A New Jersey legislative panel investigating the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge orchestrated by aides of Gov. Chris Christie (R) as an act of political retribution are moving to obtain text messages that Democrats believe could uncover further details of the extent of Christie’s knowledge of the closures.

CLINTON: Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE addressed the events in Ferguson, Mo., on Thursday for the first time since the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, calling for a "thorough and speedy investigation."

PAUL: Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulLexington mayor launches bid for Congress Trump-free Kennedy Center Honors avoids politics Meet the Iran hawk who could be Trump's next secretary of State MORE (R-Ky.) criticized potential 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton's Syria policy in an op-ed Wednesday, saying she was “eager to shoot first" without understanding the situation.

JINDAL: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says he would not be deterred from entering the 2016 presidential contest because of other Republicans in the field, and that he’s “thinking” and “praying” about whether to run.

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY 

“I guess they want to see whether or not it’s my real hair — which it is." —Donald Trump, on taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge