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 BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide 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 Hagan Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map 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 LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race 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 UdallLive coverage: Tillerson's hearing for State The rise and possible fall of the ‘Card’ in politics Gardner's chief of staff tapped for Senate GOP campaign director 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 senator: Obama is ‘a good role model’ Pence: 'Mistake' to commute sentence for 'traitor' Chelsea Manning Overnight Defense: Obama commutes Manning's sentence | Boeing sees 'progress' on Air Force One costs | McCain's 0B defense budget 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 PryorCotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Top Democrats are no advocates for DC statehood 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 FrankenAl FrankenFive takeaways from Price's confirmation hearing The Hill's 12:30 Report Live coverage: Tom Price's confirmation hearing 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 Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton tweets well-wishes to Bushes Chelsea Clinton: We must keep fighting Ryan, Bannon strike surprising truce 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 PaulRand PaulPaul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy GOP senators introducing ObamaCare replacement Monday Sanders, Dems defend ObamaCare at Michigan rally 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