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Off to the races: Cucinelli vs. McAuliffe.

SOUTH CAROLINA.  The State: "Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has a strong backing for reelection next year among GOP voters, while U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will need to convince people in his party to give him another term, according to a new Clemson University poll. Haley received favorable marks from 70 percent of 500 Republican voters who participated in two of the past three GOP primaries....Graham, who is facing competition from the libertarian wing of the party in the June primary, was liked by 53 percent of those polled. More than one-third of GOP voters had an unfavorable opinion of the Seneca Republican."

AP: "Graham is showing no signs of changing how he operates as he faces the biggest challenge of his political career. His three Republican challengers are coming at him from the right, arguing that he's not conservative enough. They're also noting that the 58-year-old lawyer has been in some political office since 1993 and shows no sign of stepping down soon unless he gets voted out.

SOUTH DAKOTA:  The Hill: "South Dakota state Rep. Stace Nelson (R) met with a handful of national conservative groups last week in Washington — an indication they continue to search for a challenger to former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) in the state’s open Senate race. The Republican primary field is already wide, and a bruising contest could jeopardize a pickup that is crucial to GOP efforts to take back the Senate in 2014." 

TENNESSEE: The Tennessean: "U.S. Senate candidate Joe Carr plagiarized other people’s writings at least four times in his answers to questions from a tea party group working to vet potential challengers to Sen. Lamar Alexander. Responding to a questionnaire by the Coalition for a Constitutional Senate, which includes more than 60 Tennessee tea party and far-right groups and a political action committee known as Beat Lamar, Carr copied lengthy phrases and complete sentences from four different articles on The Heritage Foundation’s website."

VIRGINIA: AP's Bob Lewis: "Republican Ken Cuccinelli pushed his knowledge of Virginia's government in a debate that, at times, left his Democratic opponent in the governor's race, Terry McAuliffe, without answers or changing the subject. And Cuccinelli found himself furiously rejecting McAuliffe claims that his actions against gay rights as attorney general had almost driven business from Virginia and that he had put wealthy benefactors and campaign contributors ahead of state taxpayers."

Washington Post: "There was no obvious gaffe in the debate, and the sparring ­featured no game-changing ­pronouncements or exchanges. When McAuliffe said he would sign legislation to legalize gay marriage, Cuccinelli corrected him on a point of process: That sort of change would not come by way of a bill but as an amendment to the Virginia Constitution. Both men ducked questions: McAuliffe on the cost of raising teachers’ salaries, funding pre-kindergarten programs and other priorities on his agenda; Cuccinelli on what tax loopholes he would close to pay for his promised $1.4 billion tax cut. Speaking to reporters afterward, Cuccinelli said it would take him a year to determine what to eliminate."

NBC's First Read: "But much of the debate saw Cuccinelli work to broaden and soften his image. He entered Wednesday's debate trailing McAuliffe in most polls, suffering deficits among women voters and Virginians in key suburban areas. He spoke repeatedly of his work to free innocent convicts and prevent sexual assault in hopes of breaking down his portrayal as a hard-charging conservative. 'No one up here has done more to protect women than I have,' Cuccinelli said of himself and his challenger. McAuliffe, by contrast, was all too eager to highlight the attorney general's past actions on abortion rights, and his comments about gay rights."

Politico: "For his part, Cuccinelli tried to turn the tables on ethics against McAuliffe, noting that the former Democratic National Committee head has remarked in the past that his political connections have helped enable various business ventures. 'You may not always agree with me in this race, but you’ll always know where I stand and why I hold the positions that I do,' he said. He later added, 'If Terry’s elected governor, we’re going to have to change the state motto from sic semper tyrannus to quid pro quo.'"

Richmond Times Dispatch: "While he wasn’t included onstage, Sarvis got his message across during the debate by airing his first TV ad. It begins with pictures of McAuliffe and Cuccinelli and a voiceover. A woman’s voice says: 'Can’t vote for these guys?' Viewers then see footage of Sarvis, who says: 'Well, I can’t either and that’s why I’m running for governor of Virginia.'"

WEST VIRGINIA: EMILY's list is endorsing Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in the state's Senate race. "She is a trailblazer, a groundbreaking leader, and most of all,ready to be West Virginia's first woman senator -- in a 55-year Democratic seat that the GOP is clamoring to take over," EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock writes in this morning's endorsement.