Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry talked about his faith Tuesday, telling a chapel service at Columbia International University that God led him into politics.
Eyeing a second White House bid, Republican Perry focused on the theme of “second chances” to the crowd of 800, mostly students. Perry also met with pastors in Charleston Monday and Columbia Tuesday, courting evangelicals a key constituency in S.C. GOP primaries.
Sixty percent of those primary voters said they were evangelical Christians in a February 2014 Winthrop Poll. A greater percentage of GOP voters – 84 percent – said religion was very important to them.
Perry told the students that, at one point in his life, he was “called to the ministry” but was not sure how to fulfill that calling.
Wanting to become a pilot for Wycliffe Bible Translators, a South American ministry, Perry found out he needed to be certified to fix his own airplane, something he could not do. The obstacle was one God put in his way to guide him in a new direction, Perry said, referring to politics.
“He meant for me to have a ministry. I just never knew it was going to be as big as it is.”
In Charleston Monday, Perry focused on foreign policy, telling Citadel cadets that he would throw out a nuclear deal with Iran if he is elected president.
But in Columbia Tuesday, Perry only touched on foreign policy, telling students that churches are giving people second chances in countries where terrorism is a threat.
Perry also said under his leadership, Texas gave second chances to nonviolent drug-related offenders, so they would not go to “prison for 20-plus years where they learned how to be real criminals.” In the past four years, Texas has shut down three prisons, he said.
Later Tuesday in Columbia, Perry met with members of the state’s electric cooperatives. If elected president, he said he would push for regulations that recognize domestic energy production as “the future” and for agency leaders who would support those policies.
Talking to reporters, Perry said if he gets into the race, his campaign will be different from 2012, when he briefly sought the GOP nomination.
That race was “frustrating,” Perry said, because he “wasn’t healthy” — he had undergone back surgery — or prepared to deal with foreign, monetary or domestic-policy issues.
Perry, whose campaign included a debate gaffe where he forgot the third item of a list of points he was trying to make, said he has spent the past three years preparing for a 2016 run. He has said he will decide by June if he will run.
If he enters the race, Perry said he will be “fully confident that I’ll be prepared to ... talk about a host of different issues that the next president of the United States is going to have to face.”
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Perry ‘a big fan’ of Lindsey Graham
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry touted his credentials as a U.S. Air Force veteran and called for a tough approach on Iran in his Palmetto State visit this week.
But the Republican’s strategy did not include attacking U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the potential favorite son in South Carolina’s first-in-the-South GOP primary. “He’s very, very capable on foreign policy,” Perry said of Graham Tuesday. “I'm a big fan of Lindsey Graham.”
Asked whether he could compete with fellow veteran Graham, who has been pushing foreign policy as 2016’s top issue, Perry said, “Listen, there's a difference between admiring somebody, respecting him and competing against him. ... (But) anybody that is going to be trying to influence what's going on in the world needs to have Lindsey Graham's ear and have his support, too.”