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THIS FIRST — BETTER EXIT — State and local high school level exit exam scores generally improved this year, according to results released Thursday by the South Carolina Department of Education. All South Carolina students are required to take and pass both sections of the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) in order to earn a high school diploma. Scores also are factored into federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings. In 2010, 78.6 percent of 51,785 South Carolina high school students passed both sections of the HSAP during their first attempt last spring. The percentage is an improvement over 2009′s passing rate of 76.4 percent.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — 2 appointed by 43: Connie Mack and Dirk Kempthorne, the man behind the “d’oh!” Dan (Homer) Castellaneta, and a real New Yorker David Remnick
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NATIONAL LENS — KEEP IT UP — The economy grew at a slightly faster pace over the summer as Americans spent a little more freely. The government reports the economy expanded at a 2 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter. It marked an improvement from the feeble 1.7 percent growth in the April-June quarter. Still, the economy isn’t growing at a strong enough pace to make a noticeable dent in high unemployment. Consumers boosted spending at a 2.6 percent pace. That marked the biggest quarterly increase since a 4.1 percent gain at the end of 2006 before the recession hit.
GODFATHER — As Rand Paul lumbers toward an expected win in Kentucky’s often nasty Senate race, he embodies the promise and peril of a phenomenon the GOP establishment must accommodate if the party is to govern and campaign effectively from here on. The freshman tea party class could number half a dozen, enough to bond with their spiritual godfather, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and cause massive headaches for McConnell if he seeks even modest compromises with Democrats. “The whole center of gravity of the Republican Party is going to shift to the right,” said Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz. “Congress is going to be much more polarized now.”
2012 WATCH — Is Sarah Palin just toying with us about running for president in 2012? Or did she really mean it when she told “Entertainment Tonight” she could run.
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE — By many measures, the Republicans are only expected to gain eight seats in the upcoming midterm elections, which would not be enough the GOP to wrestle control away from the Democrats in the new Congress in 2011. But is there another way? On the Oct. 28 broadcast of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report,” host Larry Kudlow pointed this out, citing the most recent numbers from Real Clear Politics and Intrade to his guest, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
MEASURING DRAPES — As the time before Election Day ticks down, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn is increasingly a lone wolf. The Columbia Democrat’s stubborn prediction that his party will maintain control of the House of Representatives contradicts projections by most respected political analysts, who say Republicans will regain the majority they lost four years ago with 219 to 228 of the chamber’s 435 seats. “I don’t know what the number will be, but I do believe strongly that we will maintain control of the House and the Senate,” Clyburn said.
CALENDAR ITEM — Patriot PAC is holding a press conference today at 1PM at the National Press Club to discuss the GOP support of their black Congressional candidates. They will also discuss the impact of the Tea Party movement on congressional races through Operation Black Storm. Supporters of Operation Black Storm believe that the election of minority candidates should be at the forefront of Republican politics, particularly as after the election of 2010, there will likely be more conservative blacks serving in Congress since Reconstruction.
ALL EARS — Two nationally known Republicans who may run for president came down on different sides of U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s stand against earmarks during separate visits Thursday to Greenville. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said the Constitution gives Congress control of the purse strings and that he supported earmarks for port deepening while a senator – the opposite of the position that DeMint is taking. But former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia said DeMint has shown “moral courage” in refusing to support any earmarks, including one that the State Ports Authority says is needed to study the deepening of Charleston Harbor.
AS FOR JAMES — U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said he could push to insert a $400,000 earmark to study deepening Charleston Harbor into a federal appropriations bill. He’s just not sure he will. “The top of my agenda is the Georgetown Port,” Clyburn, D-S.C., said Thursday during a swing through Charleston.
BRING IN BACK UP — Joe Miller’s “Politicking with the Stars” stormed into Anchorage’s Dena’ina Convention Center Thursday night starring former Gov. Sarah Palin, a Hollywood actress and a handful of GOP leaders. “Alaska was born to lead America,” Palin told the crowd. Featured player rolls went to state Sen. Fred Dyson, Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman and Janine Turner — the actress from the old Alaska TV show “Northern Exposure.” The group of GOP and tea party stars who appeared via prerecorded video were 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and South Carolina’s Sen. Jim DeMint.
WHETHER WEATHER — “Recent comments from top White House and congressional contenders suggest an awkward mix of outright hostility or, at best, ambivalence toward the widespread scientific consensus that humans are responsible for the warming planet,” reports Politico. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) blames his loss in the GOP primary to his public assertions that climate change is real. Only two Republican gubernatorial candidates running for election this November believe in action on climate change; both are running in states where their Democratic opponents feel the same.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM — Just weeks after President Obama signed into law a new blueprint for NASA — one that was supposed to add another space shuttle launch next year — the compromise is in danger of coming undone by a lack of money. Indeed, space program supporters worry that NASA’s 2011 budget could be reduced below its 2010 level of $18.7 billion as Congress looks to cut the deficit by curtailing government spending. Congress has yet to pass a budget for the 2011 fiscal year. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said that Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma are insisting that all appropriations go back to the 2008 level. “That, of course, would be devastating to NASA,” Nelson said, noting that the agency’s 2008 budget was about $17.3 billion.
TROUBLE SLEEPING — If one is troubled by the fact that a reported hardware malfunction led the U.S. Air Force to briefly lose contact with 50 ICBM nuclear missiles over the weekend, one might lose sleep thinking about what’s happening with Russia’s nuclear arsenal. The U.S. has not had nuclear inspectors in Russia for almost a year, since the expiration of the old START treaty last December.
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2010 WATCH — COMING IN SECOND — The lieutenant governor has historically been described as the “heartbeat-away” post, the second-in-command who, unless tragedy — or scandal — strikes, must find a way to define the position outside of the limited constitutional powers it offers. Gov. Mark Sanford’s indiscretions with an Argentine lover and the political uncertainty it sparked at the time brought the role of the lieutenant governor into focus just a year ago, but since then the part-time position has faded into the background again as two candidates fight for recognition.
HOME SWEET HOME — A hug fest broke out in Bamberg on Thursday when residents turned out to greet a hometown girl who could become the next governor of South Carolina. South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Randhawa Haley stepped off the bus at Floyd and Dot’s Restaurant into a crowd of well-wishers that included former classmates, teachers and neighbors chanting, “Nikki! Nikki!” Prior to arriving at the popular eatery, Haley and her entourage, consisting of Republican lieutenant governor hopeful Ken Ard of Florence and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, made an impromptu stop at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket, generating lots of hugs and handshaking there, too.
ALVIN’S APPROACH — Despite being down 37 percent in the polls to Republican South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint six days out from the Election Day, Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene remains in high spirits — and is continuing to push his key message: “DeMint started the recession!” Yesterday morning, in a phone conversation with The Daily Caller from his South Carolina home, Alvin Greene explained his strategy for winning the race.
PEAK A TWEET — scpolicycouncil
In preparation for the release of theBest & Worst report next week, here’s a preview: http://bit.ly/aurQpC
MONEY MATTERS — Gov. Mark Sanford has frequently criticized the state’s colleges and universities for spending money in inefficient ways. His ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, had no problem with a least one expenditure from the University of South Carolina, which paid her $15,000 for a speech she made Wednesday night at the Russell House that detailed her ex-husband’s extramarital affair with a woman from Argentina. “I don’t speak very often, but when USC invited me, I was happy to go,” said Jenny Sanford.
PLATED POLITICS — The sultry weather served as a perfect backdrop for a night of hot food and partisan motivation Thursday. An estimated 1,000 people turned out for the Orangeburg County Democratic Party’s annual Candidates’ and Elected Officials’ Cook-Off. A variety of food was served up with equal helpings of political campaigning as local officials gear up for election day, Tuesday, Nov. 2.
TEFLON — The television ads feature newspaper headlines about Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley’s taxes, her jobs or her e-mails. Editorials have questioned whether she had the right leadership approach with fellow lawmakers. Fellow Republicans have run a Swift Boat-style campaign doubting her fitness for office. But according to polls, none of it matters much to voters because Haley, a Lexington state representative, is favored to defeat Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen on Tuesday.
NOT SO DON FAST — Democrats can expect to suffer big losses Tuesday in the nation’s congressional races, but the story could be different in the Palmetto State, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler said Thursday. “I try not to let my partisan feelings get into this, but there is a possibility Senator (Vincent) Sheheen is going to win the governor’s race in South Carolina,” Fowler said.
TERRIER TWEET — woffordcollege
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GOLD TREY — The Republican running in South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District has a commanding fundraising lead over his four rivals. Trey Gowdy raised $865,000 from the January 2009 start of this election cycle through Oct. 13, according to the Federal Election Commission. He had $148,000 remaining, having spent most of his money defeating Rep. Bob Inglis of Travelers Rest in the June Republican primary. Still, Gowdy, the 7th Circuit solicitor, had more money than Democrat Paul Henry Corden, David Michael Edwards of the Constitution Party, Libertarian Rick Mahler or C. Faye Walters of the Green Party.
CROSSING THE LINE — About a week ago, a group of conservatives met at a Denny’s in Greenville to talk about replacing ranking Republican legislators with more conservative politicians, and House Speaker Bobby Harrell was at the top of their list. Earlier this week, some of those same people showed up at the Statehouse to call for Harrell’s job. S.C. Policy Council President Ashley Landess, who was a speaker at the RINO Hunt (RINO stands for Republican in Name Only), said if the Campaign for Liberty’s protest sounds like the Policy Council’s message, it should. Republican lawmakers, who are also Harrell supporters, say Landess’ involvement in the political realm is dangerously close to crossing the line into campaigning and lobbying, actions that could cost the Policy Council its nonprofit designation.
MYRTLE BEACH — Spirit Airlines adds direct flights to Myrtle Beach
BATESBURG – LEESVILLE — Marching bands competing this weekend
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON — Dupree stumps at CofC
SPARTANBURG — USC Upstate, BMW team up for high school camp
N CHARLESTON — North Charleston approves casino boat operations
FORT MILL — The 1222nd return from Afghanistan Friday
VIEWPOINT — FOUR OUT OF FIVE — Political strategist Robert Creamer writes how “Most of the punditry continues to assume that the die is cast — that Republicans will win control of the House this fall. Certainly that outcome is entirely possible. But there is a Democratic path to victory next Tuesday. But to beat the odds and win, Democrats must be successful at four key tasks over the next five days.”
VIEWPOINT II — LIGHTBULB MOMENT — Tommy Tomlinson writes how “he were standing in the sun in front of a strip mall in Rock Hill when this political year finally made sense. I was talking to Nikki Haley, the Republican who leads the S.C. governor’s race and has drawn attention nationwide. Haley says she never thought much about politics before she ran for office and her family didn’t talk about it when she was growing up in Bamberg, S.C. So after the rally, I asked her if she has the experience she needs to run the state. And that’s when the light bulb went off. This is the Year of Amateur Status. And not in the Olympian sense, either – more like Open Mike Night at the local pub.”
VIEWPOINT III — SHE’S A LADY — Danny Groner with The Huffington Post writes how “one of the early narratives written during this midterm election cycle highlighted Sarah Palin’s “mama grizzlies” and the power and potential of some female candidates. Although Palin’s original endorsed picks – Nikki Haley and Carly Fiorina – haven’t remained the keys to the mama grizzly revolution, the subtext has survived: Women candidates may well be one of the big stories that comes out of Tuesday’s elections. But some warn that emphasizing gender as an election topic might set the country back.”
VIEWPOINT IV — FROM THE PRESIDENTS DESK — Clemson and USC’s Presidents write “Higher education has been in the spotlight for the past several weeks, but the result has largely been heat rather than light, sound bites rather than substantive discussion. We believe there should be a genuine conversation about the role of higher education, focused on the outcomes South Carolina should expect from its colleges and universities: opportunities for young people, jobs and expanded economic opportunities for our citizens and solutions to the problems facing our communities. We encourage our next governor to lead such a conversation.”
FINALLY THIS — LEE-VE A LEGACY — The Charles Lea Center of Spartanburg recognized one of its own Thursday. Elaine Freeman, who helped found the center in 1971, was honored with the inaugural Lee S. Poole Award for Advocacy and Service during a meeting in the Azalea Ballroom at the Spartanburg Marriott at Renaissance Park. “We’re really excited to honor Elaine Freeman with the inaugural Lee S. Poole Award,” said Gerald Bernard, executive director of the Charles Lea Center. The award’s namesake, Lee S. Poole, was the son of John and Lynn Poole. He died last November at the age of 27, but not before leaving an indelible imprint on the volunteers, staff and board members of the Charles Lea Center.