Reporting from North Charleston, S.C. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry abruptly quit the Republican presidential race Thursday and threw his support behind Newt Gingrich, a move aimed at slowing Mitt Romney's drive toward the GOP nomination.
"I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path to victory for my candidacy in 2012," said Perry, his expression taut as he read from a prepared statement before an audience consisting of reporters who rushed to scene for the surprise announcement.
Acknowledging past differences with Gingrich, Perry nevertheless described the former House speaker as "a conservative visionary who can transform our country."
The election Perry said, in a seeming poke at Romney, was not just about defeating President Obama, but replacing him "with a conservative leader who will bring about real change."
"I have no question Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer, the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement and the courage to tell the Washington interests to take a hike if it's what is best for the country," Perry said.
In a seeming allusion to Gingrich's controversial past -- admitted adultery and a series of marriages -- Perry cited his Christian beliefs. "The fact is, there is a forgiveness for those who seek God," the governor said, "and I believe in the power of redemption."
Surrounded by grim-faced family members, Perry announced his decision just over five months after he launched his candidacy a few miles away in historic Charleston.