Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is making efforts to salvage his campaign as he seeks to strike a chord with evangelicals in South Carolina after a disappointing fifth place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
“When you find that peace from God, you stop worrying about what the critics say,” Texas Gov. Perry told a gathering at the landmark Beacon Drive-In in Spartenburg, S.C., Sunday. “I got all the people that love me that I need – her, Jesus and my family,” he added, referring to his wife, Anita.
More than 60 percent of the Republicans in South Carolina are evangelicals, and Perry hopes to gain from it. “My family didn’t look to the government to have all of the answers,” Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying. “We prayed to our creator, and we looked to one another.”
South Carolina will hold its primary on Jan. 21.
Perry, who was on the verge of quitting the presidential race following the last Tuesday’s Iowa primary, added that his faith had been “central” to his life, “whether it was walking down the aisle at 14 years of age to give my heart to Jesus Christ, or whether it was, as a young man, to surrender my will to him, dealing with the trials and tribulations that a young twenty-something-year-old was going through.”
Targeting President Barack Obama, Perry said America’s future was at stake and he had never quit “in the face of adversity.” “I am going to stay in this race and stay in this fight.”
Obama, Perry said, doesn’t care about “individuals having the dignity to have a job and take care of their family.” “He’s more interested in the next election. Mr. President, I’m more interested in the next generation.”
At Saturday night’s debate in Manchester, N.H., Perry said troops should be sent back into Iraq as he raised concerns over the possibility of neighboring Iran’s reentry in the wake of troops’ pullout. “They’re going to move back in and all of the work we’ve done, every young man that has lost his life in that country would have been for not because we’ve got a president who does not understand what’s going on in that region,” he said.
Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, who won the Iowa caucuses and is leading in polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina, is also banking on his faith. Not referring to his Mormon religion, Romney’s campaign is projecting him as “a man of deep and abiding faith” in a new mailer in South Carolina. “Mitt has been in the same church his entire life,” the mailer reads. “He has a sense of purpose, a belief that integrity and honesty matter, and a drive to serve others and make a difference.”
The Suffolk University’s tracking poll released last Friday shows Romney leading with 40 percent of likely GOP voters in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary Tuesday. Texas Rep. Ron Paul stands at 17 percent, former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum at 11 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 9 percent, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman at 8 percent and Perry at just 1 percent.
According to a CNN/Time/ORC poll of likely South Carolina GOP voters, also released last Friday, Romney is leading with 37 percent, followed by Santorum at 19 percent and Gingrich at 18 percent. Paul has the support of 12 percent and Perry has 5 percent support.