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."
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I've known too many evangelicals in my life. I don't want any of them in an elected office.
Christianity has become nothing more than a cult. Through the years I've tried to remain tolerant – but enough is enough. Christians no longer concern themselves with the meaning of the teaching of Christ. Instead, they follow rich, ultra-conservative power-brokers who serve as little more than lobbyists for the right-wing. I will now support any law or candidate supporting separation of church and state.
And you so called born again christians are who are tearing this country apart. Hope you are proud of yourselves.
I've been a Christian for over 55 yrs. My King James version of the Bible does not reflect anything in the Rep. party. My favorite of the Beatitudes-"Blessed be the PEACEMAKERS for they shall be called the children of God".
The perfect group that wants a leader... he is leading the lambs to the slaughter!!!!
Well, Perry can't win, but he can help Romney win. If that is not the result he wants, I would suspect his ego has gotten the better of him. He is only making it difficult for the "anybody but Romney" movement to succeed.
Perry, you are done. Pack it up and go home.
Having been to South Carolina, I image they will love Perry. Perry wants to send troops back to Iraq. War is always popular in South Carolina, and Perry with his corn pone personality will probably be a big hit there.
Wow....100 bible thumpers, very impressive!
"Perry, his Texas accent sounding thicker than it did in Iowa" LOL who is he kidding?
Pastor Perry does not know whether to have a parade for the soldiers returning from Iraq or send them right back to war. Perry is so far out of his league it is laughable
my friend ! ! give up...the money you have spent in vain, could be helping people in needs. you are selfish. jobs are more important now...social values...I don't care...
As if atheists aren't voters, too. Rick Perry is going to go the way of Bachmann: irrelevant.
Wow! ALMOST 100 people turned out to see him. That's just wonderful. Are you sure they weren't just out for a burger and fries and Perry just happened to crash their dinner?? 100 people.... C'mon man!
Go home Rick. You can't debate with your own party let alone the best debator in the fall...Obama.
Perry states, "Obama is a Socialist" that is why Perry will never be considered.
AWE shucks, another caucus where abortion, contraception, life begins at conception, anti gay marriage, re-introduce DADT make DOma stronger will be more talked about than debt , budget deficits, and jobs or the economy.
I just cannot get over the two faced aspect of these evangelicals who will support war and defense spending for national security reasons and in the same breath quote national debt and budget deficits as an equal national security issue.
Here's to seeing how Republican's are going to avoid the further sequestration cuts from defense due to the failure of the debt committee gang of 12. = a whole lot more convoluted spin words and Obama is the cause... sorry guys that don't work any more.
Never quit, huh? I think Perry is going to have to admit defeat at some point. I don't think that it is going to be when he has to drop out of the race because Romney or Santorum is going to get the nomination. He just doesn't know what is going on in Washington and the country. That is a problem.
Perry is just another Bush – only dumber, if that is possible.
Is this from a Governor with the highest number of executions and is proud of it? Are some of the "thou shalt not" more imperative than the others? If God were a living American he should be in court everyday against these bigots. What a sacriledge!
Republican campaign tactic: If you are not too bright and have nothing to offer, jump on the God bandwagon and hope the dullards will go for that.
The Christian Taliban at work, deserpately trying to push their religious zealotry and ignorance on a secular country. It will fail because it's not 1900 anymore.
Doesn't matter how many millions Texas crazies give you, you're still dumber than a rock.