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South Carolina back in 2016 spotlight

By Paul Steinhauser, CNN Political Editor
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014

(CNN) -- This week, South Carolina gets a piece of the action.

While Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential caucus and primary calendar, and New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary, have seen numerous visits this summer by many of the potential 2016 candidates, things have been quiet in South Carolina.

But that changes on Monday in the state that holds the first southern nominating contest.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida headlines a major fundraiser for Rep. Jeff Duncan in Anderson. Duncan's fourth annual Faith and Freedom barbeque is a big draw with many of the Palmetto State's top Republicans expected to attend. This is Rubio's first visit to South Carolina in the 2016 presidential cycle.

Last year, another potential GOP White House contender, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, was the main attraction at Duncan's "Upstate" event. It was one of two trips Paul made to South Carolina last year.

Paul's also back in the state on Monday, about 120 miles to the east of Rubio. He'll headline a fundraiser in Rock Hill for Nick Mulvaney, another Republican congressman up for re-election this November.

On Wednesday, Rick Perry pays a visit to South Carolina. The longtime Texas governor, who made a bid for the 2012 Republican nomination and is flirting with another run in 2016, will help raise money in Columbia for the state GOP. The next day Perry will attend the SEC's college football opener, pitting his beloved Texas A&M Aggies vs. the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

This is Perry's second swing through South Carolina this year. He joined Gov. Nikki Haley, who's up for re-election in November, on the campaign trail in early July.

This week's trio of visits is putting 2016 spotlight back on South Carolina.

"These are three folks with solid conservative records who should have some built-in appeal in South Carolina. So they all have an opportunity to succeed here. The question is who is going to the best job over the next couple of years in convincing South Carolinians they're the best person for the job, and a couple of years is an eternity in presidential politics," longtime South Carolina GOP consultant Joel Sawyer told CNN.

While the state has seen some GOP traffic over the past 18 months, visits by potential Democratic presidential candidates have been very rare.

Vice President Joe Biden gave the commencement address at the University of South Carolina in May and last year, he keynoted the state Democratic Party's Jefferson/Jackson dinner and showed up at longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn's annual fish fry. Also last year, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley spoke at a Democratic Party event in Charleston.

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