Greenville Times reported that: Newt Gingrich brought his rapidly ascending campaign to Greenville on Thursday, declaring that as president he would end the government's legal action against South Carolina's immigration law.
Rick Perry also brought his hopes to town, declaring his campaign still was on the march.
The 2012 Iowa caucuses are less than four weeks away. South Carolina's primary is six weeks out and the two Republicans reached out to local voters, one in the unaccustomed role as frontrunner and the other looking for a comeback.
Gingrich told a gathering of business and community leaders that on the day he's inaugurated, he will sign an executive order dropping lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona because I think the federal government should be stopping illegal immigration, not stopping the states from enforcing the laws.
Gingrich also said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from Seneca, will introduce a measure, possibly as a constitutional amendment, to address birth tourism, referring to people who come to the U.S. on a tourist visa to have children, who then can be considered Americans.
"That's clearly not what the 14th Amendment (to the U.S. Constitution) implied, and I think it's inaccurate to interpret that way," Gingrich said, referring to the provision that persons born or naturalized in the United States are U.S. citizens.
A spokesman confirmed Graham is examining two approaches, including a constitutional amendment. The other would seek a new Supreme Court interpretation of a century-old case.
"We're still working on the is and ts of it, but we are going to be introducing something," said Kevin Bishop, Graham's spokesman.
Last year, in an interview on Fox News, Graham said he might introduce an amendment to address birthright citizenship. It brought a barrage of criticism from supporters and detractors alike who interpreted it as a reversal of his stated positions on immigration reform.
South Carolina's immigration law, which takes effect Jan. 1 and borrowed some portions from Arizona's measure, would require that law enforcement officers, upon reasonable suspicion that a person might be in the country illegally, check his or her immigration status.
However, officers couldn't stop or arrest a person merely on that suspicion.
The U.S. Justice Department sued the state in federal court in Charleston, contending certain provisions of South Carolina's immigration law are unconstitutional and interfere with the federal government's authority to set and enforce immigration policy.
Federal officials argue that the Constitution and the federal immigration laws do not permit the development of a patchwork of disparate state and local immigration policies throughout the country.
The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of civil rights groups also have filed a federal lawsuit against South Carolina's law, charging that it is unconstitutional, that it invites racial profiling and that it interferes with federal law.
At the Global Trade Park in Greenville, Gingrich said his immigration policy centers on controlling the U.S. border, creating a new visa program, establishing earned legality for the millions of people who are in the U.S. outside the law and quick deportation of criminals and gang members.
"He also would ensure that every new citizen and every young American learn American history," Gingrich said.
"I have a very aggressive position on immigration," he said. I think that we should have absolute control of the border by Jan. 1, 2014, and I'm prepared to put in the resources and I'm prepared to change the law to enable us to get the whole thing completed."
Perry has defended a law he signed allowing children of illegal immigrants in Texas to pay in-state tuition rates for state colleges. As a border-state governor, he also opposes a border fence to block illegal immigration.
Until now, Perry had stressed his state's record in job creation. His pivot to social issues including a sharp critique on gay rights shows he is looking to his party's most conservative base to find new momentum.
"There's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school," Perry says in his new TV ad.
Gingrich, long consigned to the fringes of South Carolina conservatives hunt for a change agent, is riding a wave of support that includes tea party factions six weeks before South Carolina's primary that Gingrich says he must win.
A new Winthrop University poll pegged Gingrich's support at 38 percent among likely voters, well ahead of Mitt Romney's 21 percent and 9 percent for Perry.
Campaigning in Greenville, Perry greeted diners at an Orchard Park restaurant to press forward with his campaign.
He said he isn't going down without a fight.
With a huge new television ad campaign targeting social conservatives, the presidential hopeful signaled Wednesday he intends to try to resuscitate his faltering candidacy in Iowa, which holds kickoff caucuses in less than four weeks. It's a tall order for Perry, who entered the race to great fanfare in August only to see his popularity plummet throughout the fall.
"We're sitting in a good place at this particular point in time," Perry told CNN. "Obviously, we're going to be in South Carolina a good bit over the course of the next two weeks. But Iowa is the real focus."
Illustrating that, Perry's campaign has launched a $1.2 million ad buy in the caucus state leading up to the Jan. 3 contest. The campaign plans to spend more than $650,000 this week alone on a commercial showcasing his Christian faith.
Gingrich's popularity is flourishing, despite political baggage and questions about his conservatism, in part because of how he talks in packed venues across the state, say some conservative activists and political experts.
"Our country's in real trouble and we need change," said John Symons, former executive vice president of the Mauldin-based Bi-Lo grocery chain and now a local businessman.
"We need a very intelligent leader. We need an experienced leader. We need someone who can change the direction of the United States of America. I think we have that candidate in Newt Gingrich."
Greenville Mayor Knox White welcomed Gingrich at the trade park but stopped short of a direct endorsement, telling the crowd, "Like you, I'm here to hear him and to assess what he has to say."
White called the former U.S. House speaker one of the transformative leaders of the latter part of the 20th century and the 21st century now.
"Gingrich's leadership on hallmark legislation reforming welfare and to balance the federal budget proves hes not afraid of big ideas and doing big things," White said.
"It's big ideas that have transformed Greenville and made it is what it is today," White said.
In August, Perry campaigned with White at his side along Main Street.
For 55 minutes Thursday, in a speech and question-and-answer period, Gingrich extolled the virtues of shrinking the government and bolstering the economy.
Not everyone seemed convinced of his approach.
Vivian Wong, the trade parks founder, accompanied Gingrich and told GreenvilleOnline.com that she hoped to give everybody a chance to hear him.
Asked if she was endorsing Gingrich or supporting his candidacy, Wong said, "I will let you know later."