COLUMBIA - As Texas Gov. Rick Perry slapped backs and snapped photos with the Republican faithful on a muggy Wednesday night, he addressed the elephant in the room - a Texas A&M embroidered shirt underneath his brown blazer.
"You know that I'm a guy who's not afraid to stand for what I believe in," he said of his shirt at the state GOP fundraiser where about 200 faithful gathered on a patio outside First Citizens Café on Main Street. "We'll be on the same team until about 6 o'clock tomorrow, and then it's game on."
As if there was other news - and there isn't in Columbia - the University of South Carolina plays Texas A&M on Thursday.
As Perry flirts with a second presidential bid, he said he was focused on 2014 and re-electing Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. But his address to the party faithful - politicos, party officials and S.C. House members - contained something of an outline for a future presidential run, hitting high points on the economy, immigration and the role of government.
Gathered reporters didn't have a chance to press him; Perry skipped an expected media availability after his remarks.
He also addressed the other elephant in the room - the indictment he faces in Texas for an alleged abuse of power.
Perry has been indicted for delivering on a veto threat, a charge he has said is politically motivated. "That's what standing up for the rule of law is all about and that's what I'm going to do every day," Perry said to applause. (He didn't say whether he meant as president.)
Perry's roughly 15-minute talk centered on football, immigration and economic competition. There's nothing more important, he said, than the ability of states like South Carolina to attract companies. But perhaps his biggest applause line was aimed at Washington, D.C.
Leaders' jobs should be "to make Washington as inconsequential as it can be for the rest of us out here," he said.
Party faithful were generally enamored. Several Republicans said they liked the idea of a governor with a track record running for president.
Sandra Stroman, a Republican from Chester County who attended the event, crinkled her nose at the thought of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. She said Perry's stance on border issues and business were attractive.
As for her aversion to Christie: "It would be so politically incorrect if I told you," she said.
Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.