Texas Gov. Rick Perry holds up a jar of "Insanity Mustard" at… (Mark Wilson/Getty Images )
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who parachuted into the 2012 Republican presidential contest on a surge of upbeat expectations, is expected to exit the contest Thursday, two days before a South Carolina primary in which he was trailing far behind the leaders.
Perry will hold a press conference in North Charleston at 11 a.m. ET, when he'll suspend his candidacy.
Perry almost quit the race after a weak fifth-place finish in Iowa's leadoff caucuses. But urged on by his wife and supporters, he decided to press ahead, skipping the New Hampshire primary and putting all of his emphasis on South Carolina.
In theory, the first Southern primary offered Perry the best opportunity to capitalize on his Southern roots and background as a military veteran. However, the self-inflicted damage he suffered as a result of his stumbling performances in early debates proved too much to overcome.
He was running far back, in fifth place, in South Carolina polling. With Perry out of the race, his support, though only in the mid-single digits, could prove helpful to Newt Gingrich, who has been surging in recent opinion surveys.
Perry's exit came on the same day as the final pre-South Carolina debate, which will now go on with only four candidates on stage. That nationally televised event will be in Charleston, the same city where Perry announced his candidacy in mid-August.
One prominent Perry supporters, who asked to remain unidentified, said the candidate was badly damaged by his early performance in the GOP debates.
"Governor Perry is a true conservative. It is disappointing that his campaign for president did not connect with early state voters. His message was strong but his delivery in early debates left significant doubt in voter's minds that he could just not overcome," the supporter said. "He defined himself as not being able to stand toe to toe with Barack Obama and was never given a second look as his skills dramatically improved. He is truly a good man."