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Now, Mr. Wynn said, people are “searching for that story line to change back to what it was. They’d love to believe again, but there’s a lot of head-scratching there.”

As is the case elsewhere, Perry loyalists acknowledge that the good feeling evaporated here as he stumbled through debates and slid from his temporary perch as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s chief competition.

For all of Mr. Perry’s efforts, Southern ties don’t always matter.

Consider what happened four years ago when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson competed here — and paved the way for victory by Arizona Sen. John McCain.

For now, Mr. Perry is competing with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be seen as the most socially conservative alternative to Mr. Romney.

Mr. Perry doesn’t hide the fact he plummeted in the race after a promising start.

“God gives us what we can’t give ourselves — and that’s the gift of redemption,” he told a breakfast crowd at a diner. “If you watched my debate performances, it’s good to get a little bit of redemption every now and then, to get a second chance.”

Mr. Perry hopes voters here give him that chance and vote for him as he wields a job-creation message and Southern appeal.

The latter may be resonating. A Pickens restaurant owner was downright giddy that Mr. Perry ordered a cup of grits; she let his campaign put a Perry sign in the window.

And Glenn Brock, who runs a 54-year-old clothing store that carries the family name, got to bend the candidate’s ear for a few minutes about hunting the coyote, bears, hogs and other animals on the shop’s walls. He said he’ll be voting for Mr. Perry a week from Saturday.

“When it was bottomed out here, I couldn’t believe how much Texas was booming. They didn’t even realize the recession was going on,” Mr. Brock said. “If he can run the country like he did the state of Texas, the country would be a better place.”