Perry makes play for Christian voters in South Carolina
January 8th, 2012
05:09 PM ET
8 years ago

Perry makes play for Christian voters in South Carolina

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.

Also see:

Five things learned from GOP debate

Huntsman to gain first congressional backer

Romney, a Mormon, gets support from ex-ambassadors to the Vatican

Paul to target Santorum in South Carolina

Romney embraces his faith in South Carolina mail piece

Filed under: 2012 • Rick Perry • South Carolina
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. The GOP keeps opening mouth and inserting foot

    I've known too many evangelicals in my life. I don't want any of them in an elected office.

    January 8, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  2. Larry L

    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.

    January 8, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. wootdude

    And you so called born again christians are who are tearing this country apart. Hope you are proud of yourselves.

    January 8, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. willie floyd

    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".

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    January 8, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  5. Whatever

    The perfect group that wants a leader... he is leading the lambs to the slaughter!!!!

    January 8, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  6. Mikey

    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.

    January 8, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  7. SafeJourney

    Perry, you are done. Pack it up and go home.

    January 8, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  8. Hank

    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.

    January 8, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  9. NH Grandma

    Wow....100 bible thumpers, very impressive!

    January 8, 2012 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  10. The GOP still doesn't get it!

    "Perry, his Texas accent sounding thicker than it did in Iowa" LOL who is he kidding?

    January 8, 2012 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  11. Indy

    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

    January 8, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  12. dylan423

    my friend ! ! give up...the money you have spent in vain, could be helping people in needs. you are selfish. jobs are more important values...I don't care...

    January 8, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |

    As if atheists aren't voters, too. Rick Perry is going to go the way of Bachmann: irrelevant.

    January 8, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  14. ron

    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!

    January 8, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  15. Bob

    Go home Rick. You can't debate with your own party let alone the best debator in the fall...Obama.

    January 8, 2012 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  16. The Unsub

    Perry states, "Obama is a Socialist" that is why Perry will never be considered.

    January 8, 2012 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  17. J.V.Hodgson

    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.

    January 8, 2012 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    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.

    January 8, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  19. BeverlyNC

    Perry is just another Bush – only dumber, if that is possible.

    January 9, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  20. Von Bismark

    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!

    January 9, 2012 04:22 am at 4:22 am |
  21. sick of republican phonies

    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.

    January 9, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  22. Slash

    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.

    January 9, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  23. Ric

    Doesn't matter how many millions Texas crazies give you, you're still dumber than a rock.

    January 9, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |