Grand Strand voters get up close with GOP candidates

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The FOX News South Carolina GOP Debate kicks off tonight, but many Grand Strand voters got up close and personal with the candidates as they crisscrossed the Grand Strand Monday.

The GOP presidential candidates held town halls, spoke at breakfasts and forums throughout the Myrtle Beach area. All the events were open to the public and brought in local voters.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rick Santorum spoke at an event hosted by Café Mom at the Fresh Brewed Coffee House in Myrtle Beach. Perry proudly called himself an outsider and took jabs at Mitt Romney, while sharing the importance of faith to his campaign.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich met voters at his Myrtle Beach Town Hall at Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse. He talked about the importance of I-73 and decreasing the U.S.'s dependency on foreign energy.

"You take part of the money from developing energy. You build a better infrastructure, so you now have a 30 to 40 percent increase in the amount of tourism coming in here so you have more jobs here," said Gingrich.

Gingrich also told voters he would win if every conservative would vote for him in Saturday's primary.

Romney and Ron Paul joined the other candidates at the South Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum held Monday afternoon across from the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Many Grand Strand voters say the access to the candidates Monday brought was unprecedented.

"I think it's a fabulous opportunity so that we can actually ask the questions and get answers that we desire to have," said Tara Haines of Conway.

Some voters used the candidate's events to get them closer to a decision.

"I'm interested in what all the candidates have to say because there are some subtle differences in the beliefs of the candidates," said Patricia Minoie of Surfside Beach.

Many of the candidates are set to make campaign stops in the Pee Dee Tuesday. Romney is scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. rally at the Florence Civic Center, Gingrich is set to speak at an art gallery in Florence at 10 a.m., and Perry will host a lunch at the Drive In Restaurant at noon.

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