Charleston will play a major role in the next chapter of the 2012 GOP Presidential Primary.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to take the stage there this weekend and make it clear that he's running for president.
The governor was expected to be a big draw for this weekend's RedState conference as he contemplated a possible campaign. Now, website Politico is reporting that Perry's speech to the crowd will be, at least, a soft launch for a run.
Following that, the governor is expected to jet off to New Hampshire, another important early primary state.
Lin Bennett, Charleston County GOP chair, tells Patch that Perry's entrance will have major implications in the S.C. Primary.
"With all the people I've spoken with, nobody out there is committed to any candidate right now," she said.
That means many primary voters could hear the news of Perry's entrance and follow the momentum, Bennett said.
Todd Shaw, an associate professor of political science, says Perry can tap into the state's strong Tea Party base, as well as social conservatives. "He could capture the imagination of primary voters," Shaw said.
Charleston Tea Party organizer Mike Schwartz said the field is already crowded, but there’s room enough for a candidate like Perry, who has been getting press for a pro-jobs atmosphere in Texas. “I would welcome him to the race,” Schwartz said. “I think he’s a viable candidate.”
Scott Huffman, a political science professor at Winthrop University, thinks Rick Perry will definitely be jumping into the race soon.
"He has definitely been laying all the groundwork," Huffman said. "He's doing what you would expect someone to do that is planning to run." That includes hiring staff and securing advisers in key early primary states and making public appearances like the massive prayer rally.
Perry’s entrance in the race will come on the heels of this weekend’s Ames Straw Poll, an important first challenge for candidates serious about winning over the the Iowa Caucus crowds.
The governor’s entrance will likely also have implications on campaigns that are banking heavily on New Hampshire and South Carolina — most notably, former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman of Utah.
Huffman said Perry has the potential to pull voters from any or all of the current crop of declared candidates, from the hard-right Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain supporters to the more-moderate Mitt Romney supporters.
"Perry is interesting because he can pull from both the far right and the more moderate wings," Huffman said. "He's to the right of Mitt Romney but he doesn't have some of the questions on certain issues."
Such issues include the healthcare bill Romney signed as governor of Massachusetts, which is so similar to the healthcare plan passed by Democrats and signed by President Barack Obama. Additionally Romney has in the past supported some other positions anathema to social conservatives.