Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the Republican primary race awith an announcement from Charleston on Saturday. One of his first supporters is Katon Dawson, the popular former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party who was a credible candidate to head the RNC in recent years. Several Republican leaders including Greenville County GOP Chairman and South Carolina Republican Women’s Federation President Betty Poe attended the Red State gathering where Perry made his “surprise” announcement, but most are not endorsing a candidate at this point.

Richard Viguerie, one of the creators of the modern conservative movement and author of How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause, says Perry is the only candidate who passes two key tests.

Viguerie issued the following statement Saturday night:

Governor Perry‘s much anticipated announcement that he is running for the Republican nomination brought a wave of relief to conservatives who watched most of the candidates diminish themselves during the Ames, Iowa debate.

To win the Republican nomination this time, a candidate must do two things:

First the candidate must convince GOP primary voters that he or she is a committed conservative. They don’t have to be the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, but they do have to be convincing as the conservative standard bearer.

Second, that person has to convince Republican primary voters that he or she can defeat Barack Obama.

A few of the eight candidates in Ames, Iowa, can pass one of those tests. On the day he announced, Rick Perry made it clear he is the only candidate who passes both of them.

While the Perry announcement pulled some of the excitement from the Iowa Straw Poll, Michele Bachmann won the poll, edging out Ron Paul and more than doubling the votes gathered by Gov. Pawlenty, who dropped out of the race Sunday morning.

Bachmann and Santorum are the only candidates who have generated a following in South Carolina to date. Using Viguerie’s tests, Santorum is clearly a committed conservative, however, he has convinced very few voters that he is tough enough to stand up to Obama and the vicious campaign he will conduct.

Bachmann has demonstrated her willingness to fight for conservative legislation and stand on principle, but her campaign organization lacks structure and sufficient depth of commitment and consistency to see her through to victory. Ron Paul has the same dedicated followers he had 4 years ago, but has lost some conservative support due to his support of Gay Rights and legalized drugs.

Gov. Romney had a lot of support in South Carolina 4 years ago, but has failed to campaign here to date.

Speaker Gingrich is the most knowledgeable and articulate on all topics of any candidate, but he is clearly not interested in making a commitment to win the nomination. He could be a valuable asset to whoever wins the nomination.

Herman Cain needs to be involved in the campaign and administration of the winner. He is a great communicator and knows how to simplify rather than complicate solutions to problems.

Former Obama Ambassador to China, John Huntsman, would make a good Obama Vice Presidential candidate to replace Biden. He has no credibility as a Republican candidate.

In her most recent column, Star Parker came very close to expressing my views on the requirements for the next Republican presidential candidate.

We need a leader prepared to tell the American people what they don’t want to hear. We need a leader obsessed with truth, not focus groups. We need a leader whose passion is not becoming president but saving America.

Republicans need to pick a candidate who can sell Americans on what they instinctively won’t want to do and do it in a liberal media environment hostile to any candidate willing to tell the truth.

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Mike Scruggs