Hugh Hewitt
Rick Perry isn't giving up and isn't going home, and some folks in South Carolina have noticed.

The New York Times followed the Texas governor around some his stops in the Palmetto State and reported back to their Manhattan elites that, gasp, Perry was connecting with Christians.

Perry, the paper announced today, "seems to have found in South Carolina a place where he can connect with some crowds, with stump speeches, sometimes before a hundred people, that preach reverence for Jesus Christ and for the military."

"He appears looser and more confident than he has been for some time, perhaps since the days when he was considered a front-runner, which ended with his string of poor debate performances," it continued.

This was the Rick Perry who appeared on my show on Wednesday, eager to talk about the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama's proposed radical downsizing of the military, and of course, Mitt Romney. The complete transcript is here.

At the end of the conversation I asked Perry about the debates. The exchange is revealing:

HH: You just mentioned the "people on the stage." I must say, your patience with these moderators is admirable, Governor. I honestly do not know how you get through a David Gregory debate, or George Stephanopoulos debate without laughing. What’s going on in your mind when you hear their loaded questions?

RP: Well obviously, this is all about reality TV, and frankly, making money for the networks. I mean, we’ve basically become pawns of the media from the standpoint of, you know, we’re not talking about the issues in a one minute reflection, frankly, on some very, very idiotic questions. I mean, the idea about contraceptives that was asked the other night was just off the scale from the standpoint of being of any importance in this country. So you know, it is what it is, and we’re going to continue on. One of the reasons we’re involved with so much retail politics in South Carolina is that I want to talk directly to the people. We’re having open, lengthy discussions at all of these events that we’re doing, and I feel pretty confident that the South Carolina voter is paying attention, and they’re looking for an outsider, not one of these insiders either on Wall Street or Washington, D.C., to lead this country, somebody that’s got a track record of creating jobs and of cutting the tax burden and the regulatory burden. The insiders? They’ve had their chance. And it’s time to have an outsider come in and overhaul Washington, D.C.

Perry is right to condemn the wagon train of debates hosted by, for the most part, activist journalists from pro-Obama networks and often, as with Stephanopoulos and Gregory, obvious agendas that were rolled out in hope of benefiting not just ratings but also President Obama.

It is an absurd way for Republicans to pick a GOP nominee, just as is the participation of non-Republicans in the Republican caucuses and primary of Iowa and New Hampshire respectively.

The Texas governor has staked his comeback on retail politics in South Carolina, and he's surrounded himself with some retired Navy SEALs, his loyal staff and a firm belief that his long tenure at the top in Texas will speak for him better than he has in the contrived settings of the debates.

It may work. He will need at least a strong third place to persuade donors to come back. He's battling two other candidates asking to be named the last "real conservative" standing in Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, and absentees are already being processed by the tens of thousands in Florida where the last of January's contests will be held.

But one thing is for certain: Rick Perry does't have a glass jaw. Texas tough is real, and it is working the small towns and out-of-the-way places of South Carolina, hoping to surprise the country on Saturday, January 21.


Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt is host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Hugh Hewitt's new book is The War On The West.