In the post-card perfect downtown of Greer, Rick Perry popped in on the local businesses lining Trade Street to shake a few hands, tout his record as Texas governor and make political fodder of the Obama Administration's decision to reject the Keystone Pipeline energy deal with Canada.
“The president’s more focused on the next election than on the next generation. Getting this country independent of foreign sources of crude from countries that are not our friends is really problematic. This Canadian oil, there’s a possibility we can lose it to China with that decision," he said. I hope Americans will really become unhinged with that decision because it is a really bad decision for our country, for energy independence and sends a horrible message at a time that we’re heading to $4-$5 gasoline.”
Perry pivoted to his record in Texas, noting it was "the number one wind-producing state in the nation... because we made the decision in the state of Texas that we were going to give incentives to alternative fuel portfolios. And the wind energy folks said we can make that work."
But as president, he said, he'd take a hands-off approach because he opposed "Washington picking and choosing" winners in the tax code.
"I would do away with all tax credits and subsidies for energy at the national level. I don’t care whether you're in the oil and gas industry or you're in the wind industry side," he said. "Ethanol? I would do away with all of those. If Iowa wants to have an incentive for ethanol in their state, that’s fine. That’s state against state competition. But not in Washington DC."
Perry brought up the case of bankrupt solar-company Solyndra, which received federal money under Obama, who had received campaign contributions from investors in the California-based company.
"If you need an example any more so than Solyndra, then I can't explain it to you any better," Perry said.
Perry said he wanted a flat 20 percent tax rate for corporations and individuals. He said that, coupled with aggressive domestic-energy production, would improve the economy. More domestic energy, he said, would also ensure that America doesn't have to buy crude oil from enemy states.
"I can promise you, Hugo Chavez does not have America’s interests in mind," Perry said.
Perry never mentioned his opponents by name, but he seemed to echo the conservative attack on frontrunner Mitt Romney, bashed as a moderate.
“You want a bright contrast between president Obama and our nominee on the Republican ticket. We need that bright contrast," Perry said. "We don’t need a lighter version of Obama. We need a powerful contrast between what Obama’s done on this economy and what I’ve been able to do in Texas.”
Perry was met with relatively small crowds. Often, reporters and the governor's security detail and campaign staff outnumbered South Carolina voters. At his keynote speech at Southern Thymes restaurant, about 80 people crammed a small room to hear him speak. About 20 of them were college students from Mercer University -- a Georgis school -- who were transported by the campaign.
The anemic crowds are a leading indicator of the struggles with Perry's campaign, which has gone from top-tier to cellar in a matter of months. Perry's schedule was also relatively light. He had a more robust schedule, but opted for the morning walk in Greer and an evening address at an anti-abortion "personhood" rally, skipping a Bob Jones University visit in between.
Still, Perry didn't seem too concerned. At the Acme General Store, Perry grabbed a bottle of "Dave's Gourmet Insanity Mustard" and mugged for an NBC news camera. He played with Ezra, a shopper's cocker spaniel he met on the street. And later, at Chelsea's Ladies Apparel and Accessories, he recommended a brightly colored dress to a reporter who expressed her disgust.
Perry quickly retrenched, noting he's fashion sense is largely cowboy. Moments later, though, he asked what was wrong with the dress.
"It was a little too flashy?"
"Yeah," the reporter responded. "And a little too paisley."
"Oh," he said. "Well, paisley's coming back."
Whether his campaign is like paisley will be clearer when South Carolinians vote Saturday.