Rick Perry's camp stays positive, plans South Carolina blitz

Published: Aug. 20, 2015 at 7:26 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 9, 2015 at 3:53 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry planned to bring some muscle power to his struggling presidential bid in South Carolina, hitting the road for a bicycle ride with area veterans.

"It's a passion of his. The governor likes to exercise with people who see the world as he does," explained senior South Carolina campaign advisor Walter Whetsell. "He has a legitimate following among the younger veteran community."

Whetsell described the bike event, scheduled for Friday, Aug. 28 on a Columbia trail, as a strictly casual get-together among fellow vets in the midst of an accelerated series of otherwise more formal appearances and events in the state, one of the highest profile being his appearance at the We Stand With God pro-family rally at the State House on Saturday, Aug. 29.

"He's on his game," Whetsell said. "I think he's at the height of his game."

Perry's Palmetto State itinerary included an Aug. 27 town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott at Leaside in Columbia, a Lexington County Republican Party breakfast at Lizard's Thicket on Aug. 28 followed by a lunch in Aiken. His high intensity blitz comes as Perry lags in the polls, lacking even the "top 10" scoring needed to secure a place in the Aug. 6 Fox News Republican debate. The Perry camp continues reeling for another blow over its finances. In the second week of August came news that the campaign has stopped paying its staffers in South Carolina and those willing to stay on were working as volunteers.

Whetsell, working without pay himself, called the money crunch "a hiccup" and declared "everybody has experienced some version of this if they've been in politics for a while."

"I think the bigger sign is that, nationally, we've had about 90 percent of the campaign staff stay on as volunteers," exclaimed South Carolina Political Director Le Frye, who's also working without pay. "That says more than the fact of having a pay 'freeze,' as you might call it."

Historically a campaign death knell, a money crisis of this magnitude has become merely a temporary setback in the age of super PACs willing to step
in and help with funding, Whetsell insisted.

"I'm not sure a candidate could weather this storm in the past," he granted, "but if you read the news you understand that some friendly super PACs have raised large sums of money. One large super PAC has raised $14 million and they're pro-Perry."

Even in the midst of harsh belt-tightening, Frye said the Perry campaign's transparency has been inspiring to its suddenly uncompensated workers.

They've asked us to stick around," she said. "I've worked on a few national campaigns before and there's really good communication from national
headquarters. They're open about what's going on. They'll tell us when they get more money in the bank."

With traditional campaign funding running out but large donor life-support still coming, Perry supporters predicted more opportunity for the candidate to make up ground on the strength of his record, and his personal charisma."

"We had a couple of events in Anderson Spartanburg," Frye pointed out, "and the governor was more energetic and inspiration-filled than I've seen
him in a while. He was kind of on fire, actually. He really drummed up support."

"That's what he's known for," Whetsell agreed, "his fantastic ability to succeed on the stump. He'll start spending more time her as people start focusing what he's done as governor of Texas. We don't think the other candidates can go through that kind of scrutiny and pass with the flying colors that his record indicates, in terms of economic accomplishment, border security, new jobs, lower taxes, tort reform, he's hitting on all cylinders."

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