(CNN) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry suspended his struggling presidential campaign Thursday and threw his support to Newt Gingrich, a development that could alter the dynamics of the Republican race just two days before the tightening South Carolina primary.
"I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country. We've had our differences, which campaigns will inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?" Perry said at a press conference in Charleston, South Carolina.
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Perry said "there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign."
"I have no question that Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer, the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement. The courage to tell those Washington interests to take a hike if that's what's in the best interest of our country," Perry said.
Shortly after Perry's speech, the former House speaker said he was "honored and very humbled to have Perry's endorsement.
"He understands exactly the mission of defending and expanding freedom and he understands that every citizen has different ways to participate," Gingrich said at a press conference in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Perry made the final decision Wednesday night and spoke with Gingrich on the phone shortly before he held the press conference Thursday morning, one source close to the Perry campaign said.
"He believes we need a conservative for president and Mitt Romney is not conservative," the source said.
Speaking to reporters Thursday after the announcement, Perry's spokesman Ray Sullivan said the governor will return to Austin and remain there through the weekend. While there are no plans for Perry to campaign for Gingrich at this time, he said those plans will be re-evaluated after Saturday's South Carolina primary.
Asked if Perry's wife, Anita, agreed with the governor's decision, Sullivan said the family is all "supportive."
The move comes two days before the South Carolina primary and hours before the final debate ahead of the voting, which will take place on CNN Thursday night.
The campaigns of Gingrich and Rick Santorum reached out to the Perry campaign Thursday morning in an "aggressive effort" to get his endorsement, according to a source close to Perry.
Perry placed fifth in Iowa and last in New Hampshire - a state in which he did not actively compete - and had said he would launch a bid to win in South Carolina.
"South Carolinians are looking for a conservative candidate that will get this country back working again and I am it," Perry told CNN last week.
On Wednesday, CNN asked Perry about a poll that showed him with only 6% support among likely voters in the South Carolina primary. He insisted he was continuing with the effort to have a strong showing in the state.
"We're convinced that that's our goal, so the idea that we're going to do anything else, other than try to impact this election is - that's why we got in it," he said. "We didn't get in it because it was our purpose in life to be the president of the United States. We did it because it was our purpose to serve this country, and that's what we've been called for, and that's what we're going to continue doing."
When Perry entered the race in August, he immediately did well in the polls. But a series of gaffes, particularly at debates against his rivals, sent his support plummeting.
On Thursday, his campaign website continued to say "help Rick Perry win South Carolina and get America back on track."
Perry's official campaign Facebook page was filled with posts, largely from disappointed voters.
– CNN's Dana Bash, Mark Preston, Josh Levs and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.
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Thank God Perry is out.....endorsing Newt shows he is an idiot. Newt saying Palin would be offered a major spot shows he is an idiot. My conservative views are fading fast. if this is all we have to chose from, we are truly in trouble. No Newt!! No Newt!! Rest of the country seems to have a an anyone but Romney attitude, but I say anyone but Newt. Go pay off Tiffany's and fix your family problems. I'm sure the next Mrs. Gingrich is waiting somewhere.
Cue Queen Song--Dum Dum Dum Dum, Another One Bites The Dust.........
Newt Gingrich...endorsed by Todd & Sarah Palin and now Rick Perry? just disgusting! RUN from this racist, immoral PIG!
There are millions of Texans disappointed that they're stuck with Perry.
Rove's machinations behind the curtain is rehashing old public record & news reports by handing them off to Drudge and others to blare in red headlines since Rove & his ilk are not fans of Reagan's 'thou shalt not bash GOPers" . . .he has no fondness of Newt's evangenitalia & recently rehashed the GOP's 'eat their own' gossip that Newt's well known vindictiveness caused the suicide of Britt Hume's son due to his affair with fellow married w/kids GOPer Paxon being threatened to be outed by the red team in DC.
Thanks to Rove's good old boy dirty politics menu of 'eating their own'......: Newt's daughters are claiming Daddy Dearest is running for pres "so he can give his grandchildren the America HE loves"
We the People can see their young lives as janitors & sweat shop workers show them the value of growing up to be some old guy's mistress who can afford them because he's made the big bucks by unethical deeds & bleeding tax payers for personal profit.
Thank you Rick, it's about time!! The endorsement for Newt is a continuation of your screw-ups!!
There goes Perry's chance of being Mitt's VP candidate. I always assumed Perry wanted to play LBJ to Mitt's JFK – the back door being the only way he'd every be President.
Thank you Rick, it's about time!! The endorsement for Newt is a continuation of your foul ups!!
A pro-illegal alien endorsing an adulterer. Another Republican that thinks that money is what matters. To hell with the law.
First Sarah Palin and now Rick Perry. What could possibly go wrong being endorsed by those two "whack jobs"? I would keep this quiet if I were you, Newt.
Perry and Palin are probably the WORST people to have endorsements from. They're only making Romney look better and better.
What in tarnation is a "Conservative Reformer"?!? Oh, wait, Rick Perry said it, even HE doesn't know...
This clown is the biggest joke in the state of Texas, glad the country was able to figure that out too...
Ron Paul is the only candidate with some plan to tackle "dollar bubble" before it pops. Its no different then housing bubble except its much bigger hence with much long time period. But it will burst one day no doubt. Its better to do the painful procedure now then to let it manage itself. The procedure is forcing fedral government to balance the budget like all states do taking painful cuts when the times are tough. Any administration that shamelessly spends above the means is silently exploiting this loophole (Fed Gov does not have to balance the budget) for their immidiate gains at the cost of gauranteed future loss.
"Let's start a war, a nuclear war!" – from the song "GayBar"
Perry has absolutely no core values other than Rick Perry.
I suspected Perry wasn't the brightest bulb in the pack. Now I know it for sure. I originally thought Perry was a non-establishment repub. Saying that he is endorsing Newt Gingrich because he is a conservative reformer at heart tells me that Perry really doesn't what the term conservative reformer means. You had a chance to endorse a true reformer Mr. Perry, and you blew it! Ron Paul 2012!
Good Riddance !!!
That means all of God's chosen candidates have dropped out. What's an Evangelical Christian to do???
Let's get this country Newt(ered)! LOL
now that perry has drop out of the race he will lose hie reelection bid for governor of texas. because the peoples of
texas need a change this guy is all bad for amreica and for good peoples.
I love your posts but this one just made me sick to my stomach. It's early here in California.
Did God tell Perry he was just kidding when he told Slick to run for President?
Newt definitely has it made now. He has the endorsements of Todd Palin and Perry. lol
This really sucks for us here in Texas. This means we are stuck with him!