LEESVILLE, S.C. — There’s no sugar-coating Gov. Rick Perry’s chances right now. He has 11 days to convince South Carolina voters to forget his early stumbles, his fifth-place finish in Iowa and his meager chances in New Hampshire tonight.
Perry brought U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney on his bus today to stir up crowds at campaign stops. Mulvaney implored a large crowd in Fort Mill to forget about the Perry they saw in debates.
“I’m going to ask you to listen to him for the next 20 minutes," Mulvaney said of Perry, "and ask yourself: Is this is this the same guy that I saw on the debates, or is this somebody who really does get it and who really should be the president of the United states of America.
When he was in Iowa, Perry hoped voters would give him a second chance; in South Carolina, he’s openly asking for one. While he's still touting his status as a Washington outsider and his plan for a part-time Congress, there's one difference about his message this time: Mitt Romney.
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
Perry told crowds about Georgetown and Gaffney — two cities where major companies were shut down by a Romney-led investment firm that Perry said put profits over people.
"How can we make as much money as we can make in a hurry and walk away from the rubble that’s left and let these small towns like Georgetown and Gaffney, South Carolina, have to deal with it?" Perry said. "Now, what makes that an interesting story right now is the company that did that was Bain Capital. And Mitt Romney has the head of Bain Capitol when that was happening."
Voters on the trail seemed receptive. In Fort Mill, several asked Perry for pictures or autographs. And when asked if he was concerned about skipping the New Hampshire primary, Perry didn’t blink.
"With this weather?" he said. "I think South Carolina is a great place to be."
Now all the governor needs is for the state’s climate to favor a comeback — a forecast Perry’s not willing to make.
"I’m not going to play the game of what-ifs or what have you," he said. "Our intention is to win, and I can’t tell you anything other than that."
He may not have to win the state to continue his campaign, but most pundits believe he’ll be unable to continue on to the next primary, in Florida, without a strong showing here.