By NBC's Ali Weinberg
COLUMBIA, SC – He may have not been there himself, but Rick Perry sent an important surrogate – his wife Anita – to the opening of his South Carolina campaign headquarters today.
Her appearance here, announced last week, came a day after a poll of South Carolina Republican primary voters showed the former Texas governor in a close race with Mitt Romney, leading 30 to 27 percent.
Mrs. Perry told the small crowd of supporters three times in five minutes how fond she and her husband are of the third-in-the-South primary state, explaining that South Carolina and Texas are a lot alike.
“We have the same values, we like the same food, we kind of talk the same talk, and we feel right at home here,” Perry said. “And we’re planning on spending a lot of time in your state.”
Perry also talked about her husband’s humble roots, repeating almost verbatim a line her husband began using after Romney suggested he had been dealt “four aces” as governor of Texas in the midst of a state economic boom and a Republican statehouse.
“For a boy who grew up the son of tenant farmers that didn’t have indoor plumbing, you could say he was not born with four aces in his hand,” Perry said.
The Perry campaign also officially announced the endorsement of 21 Republican members of the South Carolina General Assembly, including Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler and state Sen. Larry Grooms, who appeared at the event today. Some of the legislators listed, including Peeler, had gone public with their endorsement before today's event but were officially rolled out today.
Six protestors stood outside the Perry headquarters, which also served as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s base for her 2010 campaign. A few of them, who called themselves “concerned conservatives,” wore sombreros and held signs thanking Perry for giving them free education – a nod to his passage of the DREAM Act in Texas which allowed undocumented students to pay in-state college tuition.
Two others were dressed as Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, and held signs thanking Perry for his support of Gore in the late 1980’s and his support of Clinton’s health care plan in the ‘90’s.
Katon Dawson, Perry’s South Carolina campaign chairman, asked one of the protestors whom he worked for, to which the student, Les King, responded that he was “just a student” from the University of South Carolina.