(CNN) – Anita Perry stuck up for her husband Thursday, saying Texas Gov. Rick Perry was being "brutalized" by fellow conservatives for his Christian faith.
"It's been a rough month," Perry said in an emotional speech to voters in South Carolina Thursday. The speech was recorded by NBC News. "We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today."
Rick Perry has been sliding in national polls since mid-September, when he put in shaky performances at two GOP presidential debates and lost a closely watched straw poll in Florida that he was widely expected to win. Perry's appearance at Tuesday's GOP debate also garnered negative reviews.
The latest CNN Poll of Polls, released Thursday, shows 14% of Republican voters identifying Perry as their choice for nominee, behind former Godfathers' Pizza executive Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Those numbers reflect a sharp fall since early September, when a CNN/ORC International poll showed 30% of Republican voters picking Perry.
Anita Perry pointed the finger at fellow Republicans, who she said took issue with the governor's strong conservative Christian stance.
"We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party," Perry said. "So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative – well, there are some conservatives. And they're there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose."
Perry grew teary when relating stories from her childhood, saying her father was a deacon at a local church and that she never missed Sunday school as a girl.
She said Perry relied on prayer when deciding whether or not to enter the GOP race.
"He felt like he needed to see that burning bush," Perry said. "I said he may not see that burning bush but other people are seeing it for you."
Perry's relationship with the influential evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress has come under scrutiny in the past week. Jeffress told reporters at the Values Voter Summit in Washington he believed Mormonism was a 'cult.' Two men running for the GOP presidential nomination are Mormons, Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. Jeffress has endorsed Perry, and introduced him at the summit.