CHARLESTON, S.C. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the Republican presidential race on Thursday, two days ahead of the South Carolina primary, and endorsed Newt Gingrich in an apparent effort to stop Mitt Romney from winning the nomination.
“As I have contemplated the future of this campaign, I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign,” Perry told reporters in a small room at a hotel in North Charleston. “Therefore, today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president of the United States.”
Perry didn’t mention former Massachusetts Gov. Romney by name, but made it clear that he’s withdrawing so former Speaker of the House Gingrich could consolidate conservative support in order to beat Romney, who tied in Iowa and won New Hampshire. (RELATED: Santorum wins Iowa caucuses*)
“I have no question that Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer, the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement,” Perry said.
Word of Perry’s departure from the race leaked on Thursday morning and a press conference was hastily called. Reporters waited in the hallway of the Hyatt while campaign staffers scrambled to set up the room and the American flags behind the podium.
In the same city he announced he was running for president back in August, the Texas governor admitted that he and Gingrich “had our differences” during the campaign. He also referenced Gingrich’s personal baggage, saying, “Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?” (RELATED: ABC’s Brian Ross: Gingrich ‘bombshell’ a request for ‘an open marriage’ with ex-wife)
“The fact is there is forgiveness for those who seek God. And I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenet of my Christian faith,” he said. (RELATED: Rep. on Gingrich’s marital issues: ‘Jesus is not on the ballot’ [VIDEO])
Speaking with reporters in the hotel lobby after the announcement, Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said the governor is returning to Texas on Thursday but is open to campaigning for Gingrich if asked.
Asked by The Daily Caller how important it is to Perry that Romney doesn’t win the nomination, Sullivan said, “I don’t think I’m going to address that beyond what the governor said. He feels strongly about Speaker Gingrich.”
He said Perry made the decision to drop out of the race on Wednesday and called Gingrich Thursday morning to inform him.
Sullivan also said Perry isn’t closing the door on running again for president one day.
“Keep in mind that almost all our nominees in the last 50 years have been on their second attempt at the White House,” he said. “Republicans voters tend to like experienced candidates that they’ve seen for a long time.”
In a statement, Gingrich said he’s “humbled and honored to have the support of my friend Rick Perry.”
“South Carolinians have a chance this Saturday to nominate a bold Reagan conservative who will offer a dramatic contrast with President Obama this fall in the general election,” he said.