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I just left a Rick Perry event at Duke’s Barbecue in Orangeburg, SC. It gave me great hope that Gov. Perry may indeed be able to pull off a comeback in the South Carolina Republican primary. The speech that he gave was positive, but serious, focusing on economic issues primarily. He did begin with his personal biography, which serves not only to introduce him to those who only know that he is Texas governor, but also plays well in small town and rural South Carolina where cotton is still King. He ended with a reference to South Carolina native, William Travis, the commander at the Alamo.
Perry was introduced by Katon Dawson, former SC GOP State Chairman, who is chairing Perry’s South Carolina campaign. Perry could not have a more formidable and knowledgeable ally. Dawson knows how to win elections in South Carolina. Dawson began by asking how many of the people present knew someone who was unemployed, looking for work and able to work. Almost every hand was raised. South Carolina has been hit hard by the loss of jobs and that fact plays into Perry’s strong suit.
I counted over 100 people at this event and didn’t include late-comers. That included a small contingent of press and Perry staff, but almost all were locals that had come to meet Perry. Orangeburg does not usually see Republican candidates for President. The owner of Duke’s had told me that this hadn’t happened in 50 years . The reason is not just size, but Orangeburg is the home of Congressman Jim Clyburn, the Democrats Assistant Minority Leader. But unlike the other campaigns that are only scheduling the large population centers–Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, Perry is barnstorming the state with 4 or 5 events each day.
Finally, despite all of the focus in the media, Perry did not even mention any of his opponents by name, nor did he attack any of them. Instead he focused his attention on the failed policies of Obama and the need to elect a “Washington outsider as with Executive experience” as President. The first post-New Hampshire poll in South Carolina suggests that Romney is falling, Huntsman got a New Hampshire bump, Santorum is stalling out, and Gingrich is a close 2nd to Romney. There is, however, a large group of undecided voters as well as those who could change their minds. There is still a window of opportunity for Rick Perry to revive his Presidential campaign and pull off an upset.