Perry Moves on to South Carolina
New Hampshire Republicans head to the polls Tuesday to select the candidate they want to run against President Barack Obama in the fall. Texas Governor Rick Perry isn’t playing to the New Hampshire crowds. He’s already in South Carolina.
Governor Perry’s last event in New Hampshire was a Sunday morning NBC/Facebook debate on “Meet the Press.” And even though his eyes were focused on South Carolina, he did leave Granite state Republicans with a reminder of his support for non-union jobs.
“I’m a right-to-work guy. I come from a right-to-work state,” Perry told the crowd in Concord, “and I’ll tell ya if New Hampshire wants to become the magnet for job creation in the Northeast, you pass that right-to-work legislation in this state.”
His presence in New Hampshire wasn’t about appealing to the voters there as much as it was was about showing his face to the nation after his poor showing in Iowa. He held no campaign stops, no town halls in the state. Perry is planning a 14-day blitz in South Carolina, where he hopes to convince voters he’s still a viable alternative to the other Republicans running.
“Who is it that can beat Obama? Who is it that can invigorate the Tea Party? Who is it that can take the message of smaller outsider government that’s truly going to change that place? As I look from here down to Rick Santorum, I see insiders,” Perry said.
Perry already has a shared interest with South Carolina’s many evangelical voters. In fact, several national evangelical media owners and leaders met in Texas over the weekend to see if they could agree on one candidate to back. No word yet on whether or not they came to a decision. Sarah Posner, senior editor for the online magazine Religion Dispatches, says Perry will be fighting Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich for the social conservative vote.
“Also local pastors. Folks that people outside of South Carolina probably haven’t heard of,” Posner said.
Perry spent 12 days touring Iowa in the run up to the Iowa caucuses. There he refined his message and reduced off-the-cuff stumbles, but he still finished 5th. Robert Oldendick is a political science professor at the University of South Carolina. He says for the Perry campaign to get a 2nd wind in South Carolina, he’ll need to get voters to believe he is the best person to take on the frontrunner Mitt Romney.
“Is there really one person that we can support that can derail Romney here and force it to be a closer race?” Oldendick said, “I’m not getting much of a sense that Perry is being seen as that candidate.”
Oldendick believes that a poor showing by Perry on Tuesday in New Hampshire won’t necessarily replay in South Carolina. What may really hurt Perry is South Carolina’s evangelical base. That’s right, the same people who have rallied around the Governor throughout his Texas political career.
“The evangelical base really chafes at the idea that non-evangelicals might see evangelicals as not ready for prime-time, not ready for the national political stage,” Posner said. “and I think that’s what Perry demonstrated in these debates. That he wasn’t ready for the national stage. And I think that’s a bit of an embarrassment that they don’t want to revitalize.”
Perry may also run out of money after his blitz in South Carolina. It would take a strong finish there to bring in the money necessary for any additional campaigning.