Perry even announced his campaign for president in South Carolina the day of the Ames Straw Poll - a clear indication of the importance he placed on the state. But the euphoria that greeted him there quickly gave way to scrutiny, and many state voters were disappointed with what they saw.
"The expectations and thoughts they had didn't match up with all the performances of the debate and everything that's transpired since he got in the race," said Tompkins.
South Carolina's history hasn't always been overly kind to southerners. Although it proved decisive for then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush over John McCain in 2000, it offered no assistance to Texas Sen. Phil Gramm in his 1996 battle against Bob Dole, who won the state. In 2008, McCain won there, triumphing over Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Perry still has 10 weeks before the Iowa caucuses, and nearly three weeks later South Carolina voters head to the polls. Officials on his campaign emphasize that he remains fundamentally strong in the state, citing his service in the Air Force in a veteran-heavy state, job-creation record and skill at retail politics.
"Retail politics is fastball right down the middle of the plate for Rick Perry," said Katon Dawson, a former chairman of the state party and senior adviser to Perry's campaign.