Greenville, South Carolina (CNN) - As he launched a last-ditch effort to rescue his flagging candidacy in South Carolina, Rick Perry made clear Sunday that he will make an aggressive play for Christian voters in a state where nearly six out of 10 Republican voters call themselves "born again" or evangelical.
Almost 100 people turned out to see Perry at the Beacon Drive-In, a greasy spoon in Spartanburg famous for its sweet tea and burgers.
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It was Perry's first appearance in the southern primary state since his underwhelming fifth-place finish in Iowa last week.
Perry, in his shirtsleeves and joined by his wife, Anita, walked into the restaurant and promptly ordered the house specialty – a chili cheeseburger buried underneath a pile of onion rings and french fries.
Inside the restaurant, Perry was introduced by former South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins, a longtime GOP power broker who vouched for Perry's conservative credentials.
"He is one of us, someone we can relate to," Wilkins said.
Perry, his Texas accent sounding thicker than it did in Iowa, repeatedly invoked his "values" and the faith in God he developed as a young boy on a dry land cotton farm in Paint Creek.
"Faith has been central to my life, whether it was walking down the aisle at 14 years of age to give my heart to Jesus Christ, or whether it was as a young man, to surrender my will to him to deal with the trials and tribulations that a young 20-something ... was going through," Perry said.
"When you find that peace from God," he said, "you stop worrying about what the critics say."
He suggested that was one reason he decided to remain in the Republican race, despite publicly wavering after his loss in Iowa.
"I have never quit a day in my life," he said. "I am going to stay in this race and stay in this fight because our children and our country are worth the fight.
Perry stayed at the Beacon for 30 minutes after the event shaking hands and posing for pictures.
"Down here, it feels a lot closer to home," Perry told one woman.
Perry then left Spartanburg and headed to evening services at Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville. He will stay in the area Monday for events in Anderson and Greenville.
Anita Perry also attended two area church services earlier in the day on behalf of her husband.
Katon Dawson, Perry's top adviser in the state, said he is advising the candidate to speak freely about his faith as he campaigns across South Carolina for the next two weeks.
"This is a place where born-again Christians and evangelicals are the reason we are a Republican state," Dawson told CNN. "That's the bedrock of our party."
Programming Note: Watch the ABC News/Yahoo News/WMUR New Hampshire presidential debate Sunday night on CNN at 8 p.m. ET.