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2012: Wide open in South Carolina

Politico says that there are clear GOP favorites in Iowa and New Hampshire. But in South Carolina, it’s wide open. “The first-in-the-South primary couldn’t be any more unsettled. By this point in the 2008 campaign, the Republican contenders had the state’s top consultants locked up, expansive staffs on the ground, and extensive rosters of endorsements. Voters had already been inundated with TV ads. A variety of pollsters had been in the field for months. This time around? Crickets.”

“There’s been very little polling, no ads have been aired, and the campaigns are barely staffed up. Just one of the state’s top consultants — who play a unique and exaggerated role in Columbia’s political culture — has signed up with a major candidate. A Fox News debate in May turned out to be a dud, since most of the best-known presidential prospects skipped it.”

BACHMANN: On the campaign trail yesterday in South Carolina, Bachmann endorsed the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” measure the House will vote on today, NBC’s Morgan Parmet notes. "The principles that are found in the ‘Cut, Cap and Balance’ pledge will put us in the right direction for fundamentally restructuring the way that Washington, DC is currently spending our tax dollars,” Bachmann said. “However, in signing this pledge, I'm also adding an additional line… We must also add this line and that's to repeal and defund Obamacare."

The Daily Caller -- using only a handful of anonymous former aides and advisers as sources -- alleges that Bachmann “suffers from stress-induced medical episodes that she has characterized as severe headaches. These episodes, say witnesses, occur once a week on average and can “incapacitate” her for days at time. On at least three occasions, Bachmann has landed in the hospital as a result.”

PAWLENTY: Campaigning in Iowa yesterday, “Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, said Republicans in Congress ‘better get something good’ in return for agreeing to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling,” the Des Moines Register reports.

ROMNEY: The Des Moines Register also writes, “Presumptive national front-runner Mitt Romney has visited Iowa just once this year to meet personally with Iowa Republicans, but he talked with nearly 10,000 of them last night by telephone. Romney promised to come for the Iowa State Fair in August, and added, ‘you won’t be seeing too little of us.’”

“The tele-town hall meeting, the first in Iowa this election cycle, and his comments to listeners indicate he’s not writing off the state, just not running at full sprint here yet.”

SANTORUM: On FOX last night, Santorum criticized Mitch McConnell’s “disapproval” gambit as a way to increase the debt ceiling, per NBC’s Parmet. “You don’t give someone who’s fumbling the ball in leadership, you don't give him the ball to run with it,” Santorum said. “The bottom line is the president [abdicated] his responsibility in leading this country through this very difficult debt crisis that he has in a large part created.”