Rick Perry Drops Out Of Race, Endorses Newt Gingrich

'I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat,' former GOP presidential hopeful says.

Rick Perry announced Thursday (January 19) that he is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and throwing his support behind former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Perry made the announcement at a news conference in Charleston, South Carolina, saying, "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."

The Texas governor's announcement came just hours before the final debate leading up to Saturday's South Carolina primary, in which he had been polling in the low single digits. Perry finished fifth in both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.

Upon entering the race, Perry initially surged in the polls, but his support quickly dwindled following several gaffes during the Republican debates.

In explaining his support for Gingrich, Perry stated, "I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform this country," adding that Gingrich has the "heart of a conservative reformer."

With recent polls showing Gingrich closing in on Romney's lead in South Carolina, Perry's timing and endorsement could have an impact on Saturday's primary.

Perry's endorsement of Gingrich also comes on the same day that a recount of the Iowa caucus results erased Romney's razor-thin victory, putting former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum at the top of the vote count.

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