CHARLESTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn’t surprise many folks on Saturday when he officially declared his candidacy for president, but his entry may have a huge impact on a field of candidates often panned for lacking appeal.
“He’s got to be the front runner, or very soon he will be,” said Howard Chalmers, a Mount Pleasant Republican. “His timbre is completely different than what we’ve been hearing from the president. Obama is still blaming Bush … (Perry) is just going to fix it.”
Perry’s announcement drew the largest crowd yet to the annual RedState Gathering with roughly 800 folks packing a Downtown Charleston hotel ballroom to hear Perry announce his candidacy.
"It is time to get America working again," Perry said to a cheering crowd. "That's why, with the support of my family, and an unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today my candidacy for president of the United States."
Perry knocked President Barack Obama on a slew of issues, and attendees seemed to think his tone was overwhelmingly upbeat and refreshing.
“I’ve heard a lot of candidates, but he’s the first to speak really positively,” said Tim Callanan, chairman of the Berkeley County Council. “He did a nice job of getting people to believe they can turn this around.”
Perry has a folksy style that most agreed sounds very much like another Texas governor, George W. Bush. But unlike the 43rd president, Perry has some authenticity to his southern drawl.
“I am the product of a place called Paint Creek, a community too small to be called a town along the rolling plains of West Texas,” Perry said as he introduced himself. He talked about his parents who were “tenant farmers” and he mentioned that he was an Eagle Scout.
“I think he’s going to create a big sucking sound in the field right now,” said Andre Bauer, former South Carolina Lieutenant Governor, who said he has not yet endorsed a candidate. “He will get people excited.”
Though he may quickly rise in the polls, his appeal outside consistent red states is a big question, said Chalmers, who said for now Perry has his vote.
“I think he’s going to make everyone else step up their game,” Chalmers said. “The end result, really quickly, is going to be that the herd will be thinned. ... But the only question is whether the country is ready for another president from Texas."
Perry’s late entry into the race, by most accounts, bodes well for his campaign. He already has the name recognition early entry candidates needed. Perry talked up his tax-cutting, job-creating term as Texas governor.
Gov. Nikki Haley, speaking a few hours before Perry, said Saturday's announcement was a "great choice."
"His timing is brilliant ... This is telling America, 'Get Ready.'"
This weekend's announcement, the same time as the Iowa Straw Poll, is widely seen as an attempt to steal attention from the already crowded Republican field.
Stepping off in South Carolina raises the state’s profile and allows Perry to connect with voters in a state seen as make-or-break for many presidential hopefuls.
“It gives an opportunity for south Carolina to shine a little more,” said Mike Murphee, chair of the Charleston Tea Party. “Not everything happens in Iowa.”
From Charleston, Perry heads to New Hampshire, and some reports suggest he’ll be back in the Palmetto State within a week. He told a crowd of county Republican chairs that they should expect to see him often.
“I loved what he had to say,” said Beth Alberto of Summerville. “He brings a really genuine voice to the campaign. He’s fresh, exciting and experienced. He’s got ideas, and he’s proven they work in Texas.”