ORANGEBURG, S.C. — This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, enemy of Washington.
The Obama administration is suing South Carolina over its state immigration law, and has blocked the state’s new voter-identification requirement? “Under my administration, you will not see a Department of Justice coming in and suing a state for issues that are that state’s sovereign right,” Mr. Perry assured diners at Dukes, a barbecue counter in Orangeburg.
The National Labor Relations Board? “I’d probably just do away with it,” he said at a voter forum Saturday, sponsored by Fox News’ “Huckabee” program, named for its host, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
No state is more under siege by the federal government than South Carolina, and Mr. Perry is arguably the Republican presidential field’s best advocate for states’ rights.
Yet he continues to struggle for traction among voters here, just as he did in Iowa. He didn’t even bother to compete in New Hampshire, going instead straight to South Carolina, where he had the state virtually to himself for a week. Still, he hasn’t managed yet to swing the polling needle.
South Carolina should have been tailor-made for Mr. Perry, who checks off many of the items most important to conservative primary voters here: He served in the military, he’s governor of a fellow Southern state, and he’s an evangelical Christian.
In fact, he’s the only prominent evangelical Christian left in the field otherwise populated by two Catholics, two Mormons and Rep. Ron Paul, who rarely talks about his religious beliefs.
And he ticks off a list of Medal of Honor winners and other veterans who are backing his campaign, including retired Marine Capt. Dan Moran, who is recovering from 30 surgeries and third-degree burns over half of his body but who told Mr. Perry he cannot leave the race.
“He said, ‘Sir, I didn’t get these scars on my face for us to quit,’ ” Mr. Perry recalled. “He said, ‘I’m not going to quit on this country, and you’re not going to quit on this campaign.’ We’re going to go to South Carolina, plead with the people of South Carolina.”
But while the other candidates are developing their campaign narrative, Mr. Perry still finds himself having to answer the same questions that dogged him from the very start of his campaign.
He said he’d gotten a mailer from Mr. Paul’s campaign that pointed out Mr. Perry’s support for then-Sen. Al Gore in the Democratic primary in 1988 — Mr. Perry was a Democrat at the time, but says he voted for George H.W. Bush in the general election, And Mr. Lindsay also accused Mr. Perry of having given taxpayer money to illegal immigrants.
Mr. Perry flatly denied the immigration charge.
“I don’t understand where that comes from. I’ve been fighting the battle on the border with Mexico and Texas for 11 years,” he said.
The only problem is that Mr. Perry did, in fact, sign a bill to allow illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities in Texas. It was a major issue in the debates during the fall, and was credited with being one of the reasons his poll numbers slipped so dramatically.View Entire Story
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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