(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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"no viable path" ? That is because Parry, who apparently never finished High School, never was a "viable Candidate".
But since there is no longer a real Republican Party, guess it makes no difference.
Perry never had the mojo to make this work. His endorsement was as lame as his campaign. The only thing he proved was his belt buckle was the biggest on stage.
Thankfully another one drops out. At this rate, maybe we all can get lucky and have no one running for the GOP nomination.
Perry dropped out of a race he should never have dropped into. Good hair does not a qualified candidate make, Rick. Good sense would have gone a long way toward making you qualified, but you were about as far from that as Texas is from being first in education.
So did Perry remember his reasons for dropping out?
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Newt becoming president is this : The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
One of the things I love about politicians is that one minute they are slinging mud at each other and the next minute they are kissing each other. Either the mudslinging was fake, or the making up, or both. None of them are sincere. None of them are honest. None of them have an ounce of decency. It is all a dog and pony show ( and mostly dogs ).
Proof positive of God's existance, and that God is a DEMOCRAT!!!!!!
One POS backed by a complete moron. I cant believe the selection of Republicans this year. Add a couple elephants and a trapeze act to the GOPs and you have a full ring circus with all these clowns.
"Conservative Visionary" is a in terms. Hate = Fail. One more down!
Any questions as to Gingrich's incompetence should be answered now as one incompepent endorses a another. The last thing America needs is another b.s.er in the White House and Gingrich would be just that.
Notice how no one endorses P a u l. Of course not ... they want the best chance of getting a cushy little cabinet position. After the things they've accused each other of at the debates, you'd wonder how any of them could endorse each other at all. P a u l would not give any of these fools an endorsement. But somehow, the rest of the GOP field will sacrifice principle (well, if they had any in the first place) for a chance to be a part of the next corrupt administration.
"Conservative Visionary" is a contradiction in terms. Hate = Fail. One more hate monger down.
There's three reasons why I'm backin' ma buddy Newt!
If it weren't for the idiot tha Sanitarum is we might have a change at beating Obama with Gingrich, but I don't think it will happen is Romney is the nominee.
Newt might have baggage, but at least he's a Christian.
It shows even Republicans around the country have standards. Now can someone explain Texans to me? The longest sitting governor in the states history? Really?
Obama wins. The Republicans are so flawed, they cannot win. Look what they did to this nation under Bush, destroyed it. Who would vote for a candidate that fights within this own party.
They have to be or he will have them executed.
Both womanizers, no surprises here.
"I love Gingrich's job creation resume... "Back in the 70s I was part of Congress, and we passed some bills that may have created some jobs." Besides lobbying and infidelity, Newt, what else have you been up to since then?"
What else? Became corrupted by taking our hard earned taxpayer's $1.6 mil. from Freddie Mae??? Also, hiring paid volunteer (no such thing as paid volunteer! If he pay someone to do the job, they are his staff!) to commit fraud in getting false signatures to qualify to be in Virginia ballot, and try to sue Virginia for that??? Should'nt Newt be in jail now? Double standard!!!
Nobody in the republican party are good enough to be a candidate for president. don't really care for the republican candidates and party of no will eventually disappear from the spotlight and keep president obama in office for next 4 years..
Amazing that the "King of Sleaze" is dropping out of the race. Maybe the voting public finally realized that Ricky Perry, balanced the Texa*s economy with over a Trillion dollars in handouts from W, over his eight years of ruining this country. Not to mention this POS attacked Governor Romney's faith trying to make it a major issue. Glad to see you go Ricky, always good to get a lying, and cheating Texan out of this race.
GOOD RIDDANCE Perry! This doofus would have been Bush revisited!