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Campaign Journal: Back to Greenville

Published by Laura Olson on .

1 p.m. - At the Poinsett Club here, a predominantly white private club, Texas Gov. Rick Perry continued his return to South Carolina, looking past tomorrow's northeastern primary and on to the southern conservatives.

While he was the luncheon speaker at the club's First Monday gathering, the presence of other presidential contenders could be seen: representatives for Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney all stood up to give brief pitches prior to Perry's speech.

(Romney's aide was seated at the same table as former state House Speaker and former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins, a Perry backer. And the Santorum rep stood for his seat, two chairs over from Perry.)

Gingrich's state director, Adam Waldeck, urged the business leaders present to consider who can take on President Barack Obama and who has a track record of "large-scale change."

Perry's state chair, Katon Dawson, stuck to an argument on economics and principles, saying the country needs "a conservative revolution and he needs to be the leader of it."

As for Perry himself, he transitioned from a quick review of his childhood growing up in small, rural Paint Creek, Texas ("In town, there was a Methodist church or a Baptist church -- your choice.") to his call for a balanced federal budget, part-time Congress and less regulation.

"Americans don’t want government playing a bigger role in their lives," Perry said. "Our cure is to have an outsider go to Washington, D.C."

The response from the prim-and-proper crowd was tepid, with the main applause line coming to his section on defending the states against federal intrustion. If you wanted someone to tell you that you have to buy insurance, "you’re free to move to Massachusetts."

That Romney slam came after a harsh critique this morning in Anderson, S.C., where he attacked former Bain Capital executive for his comment about being fearful of receiving a pink slip earlier in his career. Perry contrasted that comment against what he said were thousands of workers in South Carolina and elsewhere that were laid off when the private equity firm came in to assist failing businesses.

"I have no doubt that Mitt Romney worried about pink slips – whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out ... with all of the jobs that they’ve killed," Perry said. "I’m sure he was worried that he would to run out of pink slips."

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