CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Republicans in Iowa might be miffed that Gov. Rick Perry's official presidential announcement in South Carolina this afternoon is siphoning attention from the Ames Straw Poll, but the governor of the Palmetto State is smiling.
"I think his timing was brilliant," Gov. Nikki Haley told reporters after her remarks at the RedState Gathering in South Carolina, where Perry will speak later this afternoon. "I think to turn around and do this the same day that you've got an Ames Iowa poll just really lets us know that it's 'game on' time for all the candidates. And I love that."
While many of Perry's GOP rivals are munching fried food and busing supporters to Ames, the Texas governor will be formally announcing his presidential intentions at the convention of conservative bloggers in a 350-seat hotel ballroom in Charleston, SC.
Haley said that she's advised Perry - whom she described in her formal remarks as a "superstar" -- to reach out to activists all over South Carolina, adding that she believes he will find that state "very welcoming."
The South Carolina governor, who is being courted by candidates as a key endorser in the primary contest next year, promised to back a candidate before the primary but not "anytime soon."
Her criteria for an endorsement? "The hardest part of my job right now is dealing with the federal government. They don't let me do my job. And what I want is a president that understands that I need the federal government to get out of the way so that I can do my job. And I will be endorsing based on that."
*** UPDATE *** AP reports on a conference call Perry just had with South Carolina voters.
"I'm running for president and 'full well believe I'm going to win,'" he told them.
He is speaking at 1:00 pm ET to make it official on camera at RedState.
*** UPDATE 2 *** Perry's Web site is now live.