Columbia, S.C. — Gov. Rick Perry missed Monday’s Palmetto Freedom Forum — a spirited, nationally televised discussion of constitutional questions — because of the wildfires in Texas. Yet even in absentia, Perry, a recent entry to the presidential field, loomed large, exciting the attendees, who talked up his chances. South Carolina Republicans, with their southern-tinged conservatism and evangelical spirit, view him as a top contender.
Sources close to Perry tell National Review Online that over the past month, the campaign has hustled to increase its presence in the battleground state. The governor has taken a bus tour and participated in town-hall events with local Republicans; he’s visited small-town diners and huddled with tea-party activists. Earlier Monday, before flying back to Texas, Perry joined Rep. Tim Scott, a freshman GOP congressman, in Myrtle Beach. The response there, sources say — as well as at Perry’s stops in Florence and Rock Hill — has given the governor and his senior team confidence that they can make a strong play.
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