GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) _ Crowds clapped as they packed around Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani while they arrived for the Greenville County Republican convention Saturday.
Some in the crowd grumbled about the absence of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
There was little doubt about the popularity of former New York Mayor Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, as they held court for about a half-hour each before addressing one of the state's largest Republican groups. Not far away, all working the crowd, were Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Others worked the crowd, too, such as Brentleigh Crow, who was trying to get her picture taken with all the candidates. Crow, like some Republicans here, was miffed that McCain of Arizona was nowhere in sight.
``I was appalled that McCain thumbed his nose at Greenville,'' Crow said. McCain's campaign staff said he had scheduling conflicts that kept him away from South Carolina's county conventions, events filled with some of the GOP's most committed activists.
McCain didn't buy booth space at the event, either, said Wendy Nanney, the Greenville Republican chairwoman.
Still, some McCain supporters were on hand, hanging campaign signs and plastering stickers on lapels.
Candidates who took a tough line on immigration were crowd pleasers in Greenville County and at neighboring Spartanburg County's convention.
Hunter got some of his loudest applause when he talked about slow progress on a border fence with Mexico. If the work's not done when he is sworn in as president, Hunter promised, ``I will finish the border fence in six months.''
Security was another popular refrain. The United States is never again ``going to go back on defense,'' Giuliani told the Greenville crowd.
Millionaire textile magnate Roger Milliken, who wore a Hunter campaign sticker, said the California congressman is the only one in the field who has it right on international trade. But some were surprised by Huckabee.
``I'm going to give him a hard look now,'' said Paul Hersey of Roebuck, who liked the former Arkansas governor's remarks on immigration and abortion, an issue that resonates with Christian conservatives in upstate South Carolina.