(CNN)-It's early, and State of the Union is bringing you the best of the morning headlines to go with your cup of coffee.
It's all 2012 on our radar this morning. We have Gov. Rick Perry on the program, as well as Obama campaign senior strategist David Axelrod and Romney supporter Sen. John McCain.
Check out what we're reading and watch the show today at 9 a.m./12 p.m. ET.
Rick Perry hoping for a campaign revival in South Carolina
Those who know Perry make two contradictory points about him: that he relishes tough political fights and that his biggest Texas supporters had to talk him into this one. And although vowing to battle on — and launching aggressive attacks against GOP front-runner Mitt Romney as a “vulture capitalist” — Perry has also told people that he never had a “lifelong ambition” to be president.
South Carolina’s 100-plus Tea Party organizations – the GOP element most likely to go rogue – are split between former Speaker Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas libertarian. Other Tea Party members say they still are looking for a candidate after U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota quit the race. Meanwhile, prominent party activists had been banking on Texas Gov. Perry taking South Carolina by storm. A Southern governor who wears his faith on his sleeve and talks tough on issues, Perry seemed custom-made for South Carolina, announcing his candidacy in Charleston and racking up several key endorsements. But crippled by a series of fumbles in nationally televised debates, Perry has failed to break out of the single digits in S.C. polls. He now is in the midst of a 15-day bus tour through the Palmetto State, banking on a Southern revival to save his campaign. Social conservatives also find themselves split between Perry and Santorum.
An analysis by The State, the largest South Carolina newspaper, showed this weekend that an astonishing $11.3 million has been spent on TV ads — the majority of which are anti-Newt Gingrich spots run by a pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future.
Santorum could have used this new support weeks ago, as he was beginning his rise in Iowa and before Romney developed a head of steam. Had it come then, he probably would have won the Iowa caucuses, possibly changing the complexion of the race. He might have been able to pour more money into South Carolina earlier and buttress against what always was likely to be a poor showing in New Hampshire. Coming the weekend before the most crucial contest so far in the GOP nomination battle, the embrace of Santorum is helpful but at this point far from a decisive boost.
South Carolina and its residents benefit from government spending, more so than many other states. For every dollar the state pays in federal taxes, it receives $1.35 in federal government benefits. By contrast, California receives only 78 cents for every dollar it pays in taxes.
"We get more back from the federal government than we send in terms of revenue," said Doug Woodward, an economics professor at the University of South Carolina. "But I'm not sure that a lot of voters would even care if they heard that. When they say they want to see less spending in the state, they're referring to entitlement programs."
One in five residents in South Carolina receives Social Security benefits — compared with just 13% in California. As an aging state, South Carolina will be more dependent on federal programs such as Social Security in the coming decade, according to AARP.
In a state that poses a crucial test of his ability to persuade religious, cultural and economic conservatives that he is truly one of them, he has so far been spared a piercing inquisition about his shifting positions over the years on abortion, gay rights and health care mandates — somewhat to the frustration of his opponents.
“I don’t know why they continue to pound on it,” said Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, conceding in an interview here that he had grown frustrated with the focus on Mr. Romney’s business dealings rather than his evolving views on social issues. “We can’t be distracted from finding a candidate who can draw a clear contrast on the big issues of the day.”
The ad concludes with the narrator saying: “Michele Bachmann was right: Newt helped change history once. He can do it again. Go with Newt, the man who can beat Obama.”
For all the fuzzy feelings expressed by Mrs. Bachmann in the ad, her lawyer is asking radio stations to pull it off the air.
The problem, as they see it, is that the ad makes it seem that Mrs. Bachmann has endorsed Mr. Gingrich. But she hasn’t.
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