GREENVILLE, S.C. – Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Saturday that thoughtful discussion is needed to bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq as he wrapped up his first week of campaigning for the GOP's presidential nomination.
Perry has emphasized domestic issues since he launched his bid last week in Charleston. He returned to the early primary state of South Carolina on Friday for fundraisers, to pick up key endorsements and to give voters a chance to hear him in person.
After a Rock Hill event, Perry told reporters the nation needs to be thoughtful about deploying troops and bringing them home as he criticized President Barack Obama's timeline for doing so in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We need to be thoughtful before we ever go into an area that America's interests are truly being impacted, and then we need to start having a thoughtful conversation with those commanders in the field about how to be bringing our young men and women back," Perry said. "Look, I think the president made a huge mistake by signaling the enemy that we're going to leave at a particular time. That's bad public policy, but more importantly it put our kids in harm's way."
Perry also talked about immigration and border security, an issue that divides him and rival Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. She told South Carolina voters this past week that U.S. troops in South Korea should be redeployed to south Texas and a wall should be built on every inch of the border with Mexico. Perry wants border security, but dismisses the idea of a barrier the length of the border.
Perry said Congress should leave it up to the states to shape laws regarding illegal immigration. For instance, he said he didn't want a law like Arizona's in Texas. "I didn't want to make our law enforcement officers federal immigration officers. So state-by-state ought to be the way to do that, not by the federal government making one size fits all," Perry said. Meanwhile, the issue of immigration reform, Perry said, can't be addressed until the border is secure.
Later, Perry returned to Austin, speaking briefly to a packed and sweltering bar.
"Thank you all for being here and sweating," his wife, Anita Perry said as she introduced him to a friendly hometown crowd. "We have been sweating for you all week."
Perry, heading home for the first time since he announced his presidential bid, urged the crowd of Texans to defend the Lone Star State.
"When the liberal pundits start trashing Texas ... I want you all to stand up and say that dog won't hunt," he urged.
All week, Perry packed rooms and restaurants everywhere he went. For instance, at a Greenville restaurant Saturday, about 100 people waited outside as he spoke to about 500 inside.
Perry's primary pitch from the beginning has been getting more people back to work and blaming Obama for job loss.
"The answer is we're going to cut the taxes, we're going lower the regulations, we're going to get the lawyers out of our business and we're going to get America back working again," Perry said.
His lines pleased crowds in South Carolina, which in July had the nation's third-highest unemployment rate, 10.5 percent. That, Perry said, "is a testament to the widespread misery created by this administration. They inherited a bad economy, but they made it worse."
Perry didn't leave South Carolina empty-handed. His campaign raised money at a private event Friday in Greenville. And he left the state with key endorsements.
Longtime state legislator David Wilkins, who played a big role in George W. Bush's White House races, signed onto Perry's bid. And Harvey Peeler, majority leader in the state Senate, jumped aboard, too.
Peeler and Wilkins, who rose to House speaker before Bush named him ambassador to Canada, are the most notable backers to announce their support for a candidate in South Carolina.
Both endorsements came even though U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint encouraged fellow leading Republicans in South Carolina to hold off for now on making endorsements.
Associated Press writer April Castro in Austin contributed to this report.