CHARLESTON — A blossoming crowd gathered in the Carolina ballroom of the Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston by 9:30 this morning, leading up to the state's governor taking the stage at 10 a.m.
First on the agenda today for the RedState Gathering was American Majority Training Session. Erick Erickson, the founder of RedState, introduced the topic and speaker before heading out for some media interviews.
On everyone's minds this morning is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, expected to announce his run for the GOP nomination when he speaks at 1 p.m.
RedState Gathering staff told Patch that nearly 800 people are expected to attend the speech.
A common theme among many attendees is "more the merrier" on the Republican playing field.
"The more on the playing field the better," Donna Taylor of Aiken said. "That means we need to come up with a strong individual with a great foundation that can beat the current president."
Perry is among Taylor's favorites vying for the presidency. Also listed as her favorites are Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. But Taylor said Paul is more of a good conservative leader and not a promising presidential candidate.
For north Georgia residents Larry and Dottie Krull, Perry's expected announcement also had a "more the merrier" feel for the pool of GOP candidates.
"The campaign has a long way to go yet," Larry Krull said. He added that people will continue to join and drop out. "We have a lot of choices … We're interested to hear what he has to say."
The Krulls said that the only candidate to woo them so far has been Herman Cain — a Georgia native.
Allen Page of North Carolina described the mood at today's RedState Gathering — and gatherings like this across the nation at the moment — as energetic.
"The energy level is the highest I've ever seen in my life," the Freedom Works representative said. Page has been volunteering with political campaigns and causes for 30 years. "People want change in the right direction."
Even 17-year-old Paul Helms was excited. After all, Perry is his governor.
"I know the governor is going to be here," he said, taking his seat for the American Majority session.
The high school student is looking at colleges and the RedState Gathering was one of the planned stops.
While introducing the American Majority representative, Erickson motioned toward the back of the room at the press staging area.
"The last two years, we didn't have all of this in the back," he said.
Later, while speaking to reporters, he couldn't escape the star of today's show: Perry.
"I suspect (the audience) will see a preview of what his logo is going to look like," Erickson said.