GREENVILLE, S.C. — The Republican dog and pony show hits Upstate South Carolina on Saturday as nearly a dozen presidential hopefuls pitch conservative activists during a forum on economic freedom.

The Palmetto State hosts the third nominating contest of the 2016 presidential primary and first in the Republican-dominated South. That makes South Carolina a critical battleground in the race for the GOP nomination, even though the state's streak of picking the party's presidential nominee was broken three years ago. Upstate South Carolina is considered the conservative bastion of this decidedly red state.

Scott Ramsey, a 47-year-old Republican voter from Spartanburg who showed up at a local barbecue joint Friday evening to meet former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, said he's excited for the campaign to get underway.

"I'm trying to give all of the candidates a fair opportunity to get my vote," said Ramsey, who is in the funeral business and said the attribute he's looking for most in a candidate is leadership.


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