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The Brief: Jan. 12, 2012

His political fortunes have yet to turn around, but in South Carolina, Rick Perry may have finally found an audience.

Gov. Rick Perry leaving the stage in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

His political fortunes have yet to turn around, but in South Carolina, Rick Perry may have finally found an audience.

Perry, touring South Carolina in an attempt to drum up support ahead of the state's Jan. 21 primary, on Wednesday faced criticism from Republican voters and prominent conservatives, like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, for attacking GOP front-runner Mitt Romney's business past, as the Tribune's Jay Root reported.

But according to The New York Times, Perry's stump speeches in the state — heavily laden with references to his Christianity and the military — seem to have resonated with crowds, especially in the more socially conservative parts of the state. Perry's newfound confidence and sense of humility, as well as the presence of his wife, Anita, appear to have won over many voters, the Times notes.

“What you see is what you get, and he stands on the same foundation that I stand on," Patty Whetsell, a Republican activist in Greenville, told the Times. “He acknowledges God in his life, and without God, where would we be? He’s not like some pastors who think they own their church. He acknowledges those around him. And his wife is a great asset. She’s submissive to him, as she should be."

Whether Perry can turn receptive crowds into votes remains unclear. Polls have shown the governor, who finished a dismal fifth place in Iowa and an even worse — though expected — sixth in New Hampshire, still mired in the single digits, even after Michele Bachmann's withdrawal from the race. With such numbers, Perry barely qualified for a CNN debate in the state on Jan. 19.

But Perry dismissed the setbacks. “That’s trying to call the game in the first quarter,” he said when asked whether he'd end his campaign if he underperforms in the state, adding, “I’m not here to come in second.”

Culled:

  • Tonight, Ted Cruz, David Dewhurst and Tom Leppert — the top three Republican candidates seeking to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate — will debate for the first time. Empower Texans and the Texas Public Policy Foundation will host the event, which recent entrant Craig James, a former ESPN analyst, and Glenn Addison, an undertaker and former member of the Magnolia Independent School District board, will also attend. The debate, starting at 7 p.m., will stream live at empowertexans.com.
  • Attention may have shifted to South Carolina, which holds its primaries on Jan. 21, but Ron Paul has already begun wooing voters — specifically, early absentee voters — in Florida, which votes on Jan. 31. Though Politico reported this week that Paul wouldn't contest Florida, The Associated Press reports that no other candidates besides Paul and Mitt Romney have reached out as aggressively to the state's 400,000-plus absentees.
  • The presidential race isn't the only one seeing the influence of Super PACs, the independent organizations that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates but are legally barred from coordinating with them. As the San Antonio Express-News reports, one such group is hitting U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-San Antonio, for his votes on unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut.

"We’re marching on. The numbers are growing. They grew exponentially in New Hampshire, and they’re going to grow contagiously here in South Carolina."Ron Paul to a crowd of supporters in West Columbia, S.C., on Wednesday

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