When Texas Gov. Rick Perry launches his presidential campaign here Saturday, he'll become the second candidate in recent cycles hoping to make Charleston a White House springboard.
Trouble is, it didn't work the last time.
On a humid morning in September 2003, Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry told hundreds gathered in front of the aircraft carrier Yorktown, as he declared his bid to seek the nation's highest office, that George Bush had taken America in the wrong direction.
While the backdrop was both scenic and symbolic, Kerry fell short 14 months later on Election Day 2004. Perry, though, has a bit more in his favor.
His formal announcement -- reported by multiple media outlets Thursday -- will come in a pro-military state where there are legions
of tea party faithful and scores of evangelical Christians who make up much of the GOP primary turnout. The two-term Southern Republican governor could easily soar to the top of the party's preference list, political watchers say.
Hanahan resident Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America, said Perry has a good chance of being "one of the two or three" left standing when the bumpy primary process plays out, though she is officially neutral in the nomination race.
Even before jumping in, a weekend Gallup poll had ranked Perry second among registered GOP voters asked who they were most likely to support, with Mitt Romney first at 26 percent; Perry at 17 percent; and Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul tied at 13 percent.
Other Republicans think Perry, an Air Force veteran, is being smart about his Charleston launch, especially since the state has correctly picked the GOP nominee since the 1980s, including John McCain, a repeat Charleston and Yorktown visitor.
"This is a unique state in that our number one role is that we think we ought to pick the winner," said Barry Wynn, former state party chairman, who also is neutral this year.
Perry will make his announcement during an address slated for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Francis Marion Hotel on King Street during the annual gathering of the group RedState, made up of more than 400 conservative bloggers.
While the event is open to only participants and the media, what's sure to happen once Perry begins talking is that the blogosphere will light up both with Perry's comments and speculation over where he sits among the now 12-way GOP pack. Already there is talk that TV trucks are fighting for space around Marion Square to cover Perry's 45-minute address.
Perry's speech -- details of which have not been disclosed -- also dilutes what otherwise would be a high-profile news day for most other candidates.
The rest of the field Saturday will be focused on the Ames, Iowa, Republican straw poll billed as the first time Hawkeye Republicans will publicly indicate their favorites for 2012.
Some political watchers also say Perry's move here could also make Iowa less important in the overall process, leaving it to be where the bottom tier is whittled down while the top candidates focus on New Hampshire and South Carolina, even though the state party still has not yet announced a primary date.
After Perry's appearance here, he departs for quick visits to New Hampshire and Iowa but is expected back in the state in the next few weeks.
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