Texas: US Sen. Ted Cruz (R), the hard-charging conservative expected to run for president, has already begun hiring staff in Iowa, site of the first caucus in next year’s GOP free-for-all, reports National Review ……. Mississippi: AG Hood gets a challenge. The Magnolia State’s only Democrat elected statewide, Attorney General Jim Hood, got a Republican challenger last week when federal prosecutor Mike Hurst, 39, filed to oppose Hood in this fall’s election. Hurst, the Assistant US Attorney for the state’s Southern District, handled several high-profile corruption cases ……. South Carolina: Graham defends McConnell/Boehner. While much of Washington is focused on the contrast between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (KY) strong leadership in keeping his not-strong-enough Senate majority in line, and House Speaker John Boehner’s (OH) vulnerability to a rightwing coup in the lower chamber’s GOP caucus, US Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told The Hill that “They’re the perfect fit for the bodies they serve in. John is the right guy to ride herd over a Republican majority that is fractured and Mitch has the disposition and institutional knowledge to give our majority the best chance of succeeding.” …….