By Harriet McLeod
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry took his campaign to the key early primary state of South Carolina on Friday, criticizing President Barack Obama's economic record and touting his own.
Perry said that in 10 years as governor of Texas, his state has "created 40 percent of the jobs created in America" and that only the private sector will allow the United States to "grow our way" out of recession.
Some Perry critics say many of the jobs in question were low-wage ones, and that Texas benefited from economic trends over which Perry had little influence.
Perry said his principles are "don't spend all the money," relax the regulatory system, have a legal system that doesn't allow "over-suing," and: "Get out of the way, government."
It was one of several stops Perry was making in the state. He visited a Florence restaurant and toured a hospital there in the morning, and headed to Greenville in the afternoon for a Saturday morning breakfast at a restaurant.
Although the featured speaker in Columbia at a Republican Party fundraiser, Perry spoke just seven minutes before working the room, shaking hands and posing for pictures with attendees.
South Carolina Republicans pride themselves on having picked the Republican presidential nominee in every election cycle since 1980.
"I think a lot of people in South Carolina are still trying to make up their minds," said Republican Speaker of the South Carolina House Bobby Harrell.
"The beauty of the state," said his son Trey, 28, a law student, "is that we look pretty closely (at the candidates) and pick the right one."
John Hull, 59 and a builder who lives in North Charleston, said he attended the luncheon to "vet" Perry.
"I regret that we have a two-party system," Hull said. "It's almost like you have to pick your poison."
Although Perry did not take media questions, spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said he does not regret saying that it would be "treasonous" if Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke "prints more money between now and the election" in November 2012.
"He's very passionate about this and very concerned about the levels of spending and the speed at which the federal government is spending," she said.
After the event, the state Democratic Party held a news conference by phone with Texas Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett who said, "I understand (Perry) is in South Carolina signing bibles today, which fits very well with a governor who is a big believer in miracles, particularly those that he performs himself."
(Editing by Jerry Norton)
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