If Rick Perry has his way, the United States of America will look a lot more like Texas.
First, take Perry's plan to turn U.S. congressmen into citizen-legislators.
In Texas, state legislators are only salaried at $600 per month and are limited to a 140-day session every two years.
Perry, who has served as governor of the state since 2000, told Sun City Hilton Head residents Thursday the nation should emulate that model with U.S. senators and representatives.
"Cut their salaries in half," he said. "Let them go back home, have a real job, live under the laws that they pass in Washington, DC."
Second, add oil wells.
Perry pledged to open federal lands and waters for energy exploration, which he said would boost the economy.
Finally, there's jobs.
One of Perry's talking points is that about 40 percent of all new jobs created in the U.S. since mid-2009 have been created in the Lone Star State.
"If there's one thing I understand, it's how to get people back to work in this country," Perry said, "because we've done it in Texas."
On the strength of his decade in office, the governor rocketed into first place in national polls when he announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in August. But a CNN/Time poll released Wednesday estimates his support among likely South Carolina primary voters at just 8 percent, far behind leader Newt Gingrich, who has 43 percent.
Voter enthusiasm for Perry dimmed after several poor debate performances in which he appeared tired and inarticulate.
That wasn't the candidate on display Thursday, though, when Perry campaigned down Beaufort's Bay Street, glad-handed with voters and spoke to about 200 people in Bluffton.
Standing on a stage in Sun City's Pinckney Hall, the governor seemed to be bursting with energy. Ignoring the wooden lectern set up for his use, an animated Perry walked back and forth across the platform. He gripped the microphone with one hand and used the other to punctuate his words with points, waves and clenched fists.
The 35-minute campaign stop wasn't free of hiccups, however.
Responding to a foreign-policy question, Perry referenced the wars in Iran and Afghanistan, and didn't seem to notice the misstep -- American troops are in Iraq, not Iran -- until audience members spoke up.
But with his caricature as a bumbler already defined, Perry easily turned the moment into a joke.
"Thank you very much," he said with a laugh. "That will be on the front page of the... something."
That fumble aside, many residents seemed to think TV appearances haven't done justice to the real, live Rick Perry.
"He was more impressive, I think, and more spontaneous. He knew what he was talking about," said Sun City resident Elaine Dennis. "I think he's gotten a bum rap from some of the media."
And after a brief discussion about Social Security after the event, resident Dolores DelPriore pointed out another way that -- at least in her mind -- Perry is better in the flesh.
"You're even cuter than you look on television," she said.
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.
- Gingrich draws hundreds -- and national spotlight -- to Bluffton rally, Nov. 29, 2011
- Huntsman pitches jobs plan to Sun City crowd, Nov. 2, 2011
- Santorum brings his "grassroots campaign" to the Lowcountry, Sept. 3, 2011
- At Bluffton gatherings, Bachmann urges voters to defeat Obama in 2012, April 16, 2011