SPARTANBURG, South Carolina — Rick Perry honed his combative southern voice Sunday, promising to make a fiery stand in the state where he first announced his presidential ambitions: South Carolina.
Whether it’s his final fight or a new beginning won’t be clear until Perry is done crisscrossing the Palmetto State over the next two weeks. But the Texas governor, who seemed to flirt with the idea of withdrawal after a dismal showing in Iowa last week, said he was in it until the end.
“When I got a target in my sight, I don’t give up,” Perry said at The Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg. “I’ve never quit a day in my life in the face of adversity, and I’m not just about to quit on the future of America. I’m going to stay in this race and stay in this fight.”
Perry leaned on some famous Texas battlefield history to stress the dire need for a boost out of the first southern primary, to be held on Jan. 21. He noted that William Barrett Travis and James Butler Bonham were South Carolina natives who gave their lives in the fight for Texas’ independence.
“That’s the type of history that this country has: men and women who are willing to give everything,” Perry said. “That’s what this election is about.”
History shows, of course, that the Battle of the Alamo was a suicide mission, which may be a more apt comparison for what Perry is headed into now. Recent polls show he is in the single digits here, and it’s far worse in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary on Tuesday.
Perry was so low in the recent CNN poll there that he had an asterisk by his name, meaning he was a statistically insignificant blip on the political radar.
The governor’s South Carolina team believes he has a better chance in the state, whose conservative voters had once made him the frontrunner. Perry announced his campaign for president in Charleston, the cradle of the Confederacy, on Aug. 13.
Former South Carolina House Speaker David Wilkins, one of Perry’s most high-profile backers here, introduced the governor as “one of us.”
In a nod to the strong military presence in South Carolina, home of The Citadel, Perry spoke of his service as an Air Force pilot and said that’s where he learned the value of perseverance. He threw in a couple of “y’alls” and generally sounded more Texan, more southern, than he did in Iowa in recent days.
The governor, angling for support from evangelical voters, is also hoping to appeal to Christian conservatives. He and his wife, Anita, attended church services on Sunday, and Perry played up his small-town, Christian upbringing during his speech at The Beacon Drive-Inn. He vowed to take those values with him to Washington, whose establishment he is promising to shake up hard.
“I’ve got all the people that love me that I need,” Perry said, looking over to the Texas first lady. “Her, Jesus and my family.”