CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA,  January 19, 2012, ( – After seeing his once-promising campaign going nowhere, Texas governor Rick Perry pulled out of the Republican presidential race this morning, endorsing Newt Gingrich. “I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path to victory for my candidacy in 2012,” he said. “Therefore, today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president.”

Invoking first Texas governor Sam Houston, he referred to the move as a “strategic retreat” and reminded his followers his ultimate objective “is not only to defeat President Obama, but to replace him with a conservative leader who will bring about real change.”

“Our party, and the conservative philosophy, transcends any one individual” he said. He described the former House Speaker as “a conservative visionary who can transform our country.”

It proved a disappointing ending for the candidate, who shot to frontrunner status upon announcing his bid in South Carolina last August. But a string of gaffes in debates had voters questioning his ability to take on President Barack Obama. After two last-place finishes and another on the way, he pulled out with pride. “A calling never guarantees a particular destination, but a journey that tests one’s faith and character,” he said.

“Rick Perry’s decision to suspend his campaign for president is the right thing to do and his decision shows something rare in politicians today – a patriotic and honorable commitment to rebuilding America that transcends ego and personal ambition,” longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie wrote in a statement e-mailed to and posted on his website,

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Viguerie took part in a Texas meeting of 150 evangelical and conservative leaders that voted to endorse Rick Santorum last week.

Viguerie described Santorum as “the more natural fit for the values voters that are Rick Perry’s core supporters.” He predicted, “Rick Perry’s departure from the campaign will help Santorum lock-up the social conservative vote and add fuel to his South Carolina and Florida campaigns.”

The Santorum campaign also viewed Perry’s announcement as an opportunity to fill the void as the anti-Romney candidate. Communications Director Hogan Gidley said, “The narrative that Governor Romney and the media have been touting of ‘inevitability’ has been destroyed. Conservatives can now see and believe they don’t have to settle for Romney, the Establishment’s moderate candidate.”

It should have been a good day for the former Pennsylvania senator. Earlier in the day, GOP officials reported Santorum had won 34 more votes than Mitt Romney in the Iowa Caucus, with eight precincts not reporting. That reverses original reports that Romney won the state by eight votes. James Dobson personally endorsed Santorum later in the day.

Instead, Perry’s withdrawal bolstered Newt Gingrich, whose campaign has been fueled by well-received performances in several debates. “I am humbled and honored to have the support of my friend Rick Perry,” Gingrich said in a statement shortly after the announcement.

The endorsement comes at a pivotal time, just 48 hours before the South Carolina primary, when polls show Gingrich surging in that state. The most recent American Research Group poll shows Gingrich in the lead with 33 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney came in second, one point behind him. Ron Paul garnered 19 percent, and Rick Santorum came in a distant fourth with nine percent. 

“The increasing momentum for Newt Gingrich got a big boost when Gov. Rick Perry put the nation’s interests above his own and endorsed Newt for president,” Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of Liberty University School of Law, wrote in a statement to Staver broke with other Christian leaders at the Texas meeting by publicly backing the former speaker. “We are facing the most important election of our lives, and I believe Newt Gingrich is the right man for this critical moment.”

Perry’s endorsement may also serve to blunt fallout from an allegation that Gingrich asked his second wife, Marianne, to have an “open marriage” before the two divorced twelve years ago. Her interview with ABC’s “Nightline” is scheduled to air tonight.

“Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?” Perry asked. “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 own Christian faith.”

Despite his electoral misfortune, the governor’s faith in his country remained undaunted. “Americans are down but we can never be counted out,” he said. “What’s broken in America is not our people. It’s our politics.”

He promised to continue promoting for his agenda of restructuring government, reclaiming states’ rights under the Tenth Amendment, enhancing domestic energy security, and introducing a 20 percent flat tax.

Perry is the longest serving governor in Texas history. His third term expires in 2015.

Perry thanked his wife, Anita, for standing by him during the sometimes painful campaign, kissing her in mid-speech.

“With a good wife, three wonderful children, and a loving God in my life, things will be good no matter what the future holds.”

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