Rick Perry Drops Out of Presidential Race, Endorses Newt Gingrich

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Texas Governor Rick Perry will drop out of the GOP presidential race and endorse rival Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination, according to news reports.

He will make the announcement shortly in North Charleston, S.C.

The move by Perry to end his flailing campaign was inevitable, yet came a few days sooner than expected, with the South Carolina primary looming this Saturday.

Perry hoped the state's evangelicals and social conservatives would revive his candidacy. Instead, it was Newt who surged after Monday's Republican debate.

Rick Perry Speaks

Rick Perry was mired in the low single digits in the Palmetto State and nationally, while a revitalized Gingrich has shown an upward trajectory in recent polls.

Perry weighed dropping out of the race after a dismal finish in the Iowa caucuses, only to decide to stay in and make one last stand in South Carolina.

It was not to be. In hindsight, a campaign that began with such promise actually peaked on its first day, after which Perry sank like a stone in popularity.

Clearly not ready for prime time, Perry's substance never equaled his swagger. Amazing debate gaffes came early and often. Other candidates surged past him.

By dropping out now, he may provide a modest boost to Gingrich, who's trying to present himself as a more ideologically potent conservative than Mitt Romney.

Perry said in officially suspending his candidacy today:

"I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in the 2012 campaign. I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat."

Perry said 2012 has "never been about the candidates" but about replacing President Obama "with a conservative leader who will bring about real change."

He called Gingrich "a conservative visionary who can transform our country."

Perhaps in reference to the renewed criticism by Marianne Gingrich of her ex-husband, Perry said, "Newt is not perfect, but who among us is."

"The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God, and I believe in the power of redemption. I have no question Newt has the heart of a conservative reformer."

The candidates debate again tonight in South Carolina. Look for Romney to come out hard after Newt, who will try to build on his momentum in the last 72 hours.

Ron Paul and Rick Santorum remain factors in the race as well.

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