JAMES ISLAND — Rick Perry spent a lot of time Friday night at the Charleston Crab House on James Island talking about border security to a crowd of several dozen supporters and undecided voters.
As Governor of Texas, Perry said he sees first hand problems along the U.S. Mexico border including smuggling of drugs, weapons and people, and said within the first year of his presidency he would seal the border.
"[My father] said you know what, the federal government is supposed to do three things really well, he said they're supposed to stand the military, he said they're supposed to defend and secure our borders and they're supposed to deliver our mail, preferably on Saturdays and on time," Perry said. "You know two out of three isn't good enough anymore, ladies and gentlemen."
Perry also called for a modern day Monroe Doctorine to counter Iran's influence in Venezuela, and said Hamas and Hezbollah are operating in Mexico - a claim that PolitiFact rated as "Mostly False" when Mitt Romney made it during the Nov. 22 debate.
Perry also sought to portray himself as the only Washington outsider left in the race, and said we can't expect people who have been part of the problems America is facing to go in and fix them now. He said as president he would veto all bills with earmarks.
"Earmarks are the gateway drug to overspending in Washington," he said.
Though before a largely receptive crowd Perry was asked the electability question by one audience member who noted "a local paper" endorsed Romney because it said he is the most electable.
"The pundits, the newspaper editorial boards, the establishment doesn't decide who is going to be the next president, you do," Perry responded.
And that electability question seems to plague not only Perry, but everyone not named Mitt Romney. It is the biggest obstacle for Perry according to U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney who represents South Carolina's 5th Congressional District and was traveling with the candidate.
Mulvaney said the only reason Perry gets that question is because of poor debate performances, and said that President Barack Obama isn't so great when speaking off-the-cuff either.
"If he can convince enough people on the question of can he win in the primary and can he beat Obama, if he can answer that question satisfactorily for enough people he can win in South Carolina," Mulvaney said.
One of those undecided voters is College of Charleston senior Melissa Colebank. She voted for Obama in 2008 but has been disappointed with his performance on fiscal matters and by campaign promises he hasn't kept.
"I'm looking for a fiscal conservative, someone who can balance the budget," Colebank said.
She said she likes Perry's strong stance on states rights because she has been disappointed by the Obama administration's stepped up enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states where medicinal marijuana has been approved. She is president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at CofC and asked Perry about his stance on allowing states to make their own decisions on drug policy.
"That is a state issue and should be decided by the states," Perry said. "I don't always agree with what they do in other states, but that is the beauty of the 10th Amendment."
He added that if someone wanted to live somewhere that is highly taxed and regulated he or she can move to Massachusetts.
Colebank said she liked Perry's answer, but she has not committed to any candidate yet, and could vote for Rep. Ron Paul or former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, if he ends up being the nominee for the Libertarian Party because of their openness to reforming the country's drug policy. Colebank said Obama may even get her vote again, depending on the Republican party nominee. She said the one candidate that definitely would not get her vote is Newt Gingrich.
Perry will be in Mount Pleasant at Page's Okra Grill at 302 Coleman Blvd. at 9 a.m. for a meet and greet with diners Saturday before heading downtown for a town hall meeting hosted by Rep. Tim Scott at the Sottile Theater at 44 George St. at noon.