(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.
Tune in Thursday at 8 p.m. ET for the CNN/Southern Republican Presidential Debate hosted by John King and follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate. For real-time coverage of the South Carolina primary, go to CNNPolitics.com or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.
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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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Doesn't this then prove that God is infallible? If Perry claimed God endorsed him to run, but has now dropped out, does that mean that Santorium's god or Romney's magic underpants and voodoo Mormon god Joseph Smith is actually in charge? Hmmm. I need a panel of professional liars...I mean religious figures...to work all this out for me.
"What is a conservative reformer? Sounds like an oxymor0n."
Or just a mor0n... lol
Perry did one thing right – quit (he was the dunce candidate), and one thing wrong – endorse the most dangerous (to America's future) candidate (like the dunce he is).
This just proves that the rest of the country is sick of politicians from Texas.
It's really too bad Perry dropped out. We're running out of clowns to make fun of. Oh, well, maybe he can pray it away
After Rick Perry embarrassment as a Presidential Candidate he is unelectable to any office. He will be out as a Texas Governor, and any Congressional office
Thanks to heaven for relieving us of this joker. Never thought anyone could make Bush look like a rocket scientist but this country bumpkin sure did. The bottom of the barrel – but anyone but BamBam. Cant the Republicans find anyone but the pillsbury doughboy or the other stooges?
Why is it that these politicians endorse the very same people they were just saying would be horrible for the country the day before? That just makes Ron Paul look even better.
This is going to make Newt's head even bigger than it already is, literally. This idiot has the biggest head and even though he has that big bad body, that head is enormous!!!
Finally, the last thing we needed was "Dubya 2.0"
Perry said "I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country." Sorry Rick, that's what Obama promised to "fundamental transform this country". This "transformation" talk scares the independents. Without the support of independents this election will be lost yet again – and four more years of Obama will be a total disaster for our country. Plus, Newt has a snowball's chance of beating Obama anyway (with his extensive baggage) and if he is the nominee, you and the conservatives voting for Newt will more then definitely be blamed for four more years of Obama.
So, we've now got dingbat #1, Palin, and dingbat #2, Perry, both endorsing Newty. What does that tell ya??? (The three of them all lumped together still aren't worth a plug nickel.). Personally, I was sorry to see Huntsman drop out– he was probably the brightest of all of the candidates.
Perry and Charlie Sheen are winners!
As if the moron and intellectual light weight Rick Perry's opinion/endorsement counts for or matters one whit. The fact that he is endorsing Newt is in itself enough of a reason for anyone else not to. (Same applies to any of Sarah Palin's endorsements/recommendations.)
I find it hard to believe that people are still actually supporting these men. Not a single one of them has demonstrated a predilection for personal integrity. But of course the mainstream media wants us all to believe that these are the front runners but the truth is different when you actually talk to people. We have solid evidence of the lies that MSM including CNN put out to we the sheeple. There is no substance to any candidate except one. He is the only one that is almost never mentioned. He is the one with our real support. Boycott MSM! Vote for the remaining Texas congressman! You know his name but if I mention it they will never post this comment. Yes they are censoring blogs now too.
Thank god he dropped out before the debate tonight and avoided another embarassing debate performance. i wonder how this guy ever became governor of Texas with his subpar intellect.
Perry's self-inflated ego turned out to be as large as Texas. Not so appealing outside of Texas.
In the immortal words of Detective Harry Callahan (aka Clint Eastwood), "A good man knows his limitations." Now Governor Perry knows what most of us have known for quite a while now.
Wow. Newt's wife's news trumped your news and made you look like more of a fool. Got to love the universe and karma.
Poor Rick .....having to go with the immoral Newt over the Morman Mitt......
Bring back Sarah Palin ...? Not.
That God encourages people like Perry and Bachmann to run for president is a sure sign that he has a sense of humor.
I'm just glad that his equally IGNORANT wife who's forcing a smile next to him in that photo above, got to EAT her lies about her son being "unemployed because of Obama's policies"!!!
Maybe now he'll "pull himself up by his bootstraps" and go to job his daddy finds for him!!
With all of the Senators in South Carolina endorsing Ron Paul all of the Corporate Rockefeller candidates are having to consolidate their voting power into Gingrich & Romney in order to try and prevent a surge & win by the Doctor.
I'm still waithing for him to secede.