WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rick Perry dropped his bid to become the Republican presidential nominee and endorsed Newt Gingrich.
“I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me,” Perry said Thursday morning in South Carolina, the site of the next primary on Saturday. “I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich.”
Perry, a staunch backer of Israel who has longstanding ties with leading Republican Jews, surged in the polls when he announced his bid for the GOP nod last August, but he dipped following a number of poor debate performances.
After lagging in the Iowa and New Hampshire tests, he had hoped to rally in South Carolina. The polls, however, show Perry trailing in the conservative state.
Perry’s exit narrows the race to four candidates — Gingrich, front-runner Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.
Gingrich, an ex-congressman from Georgia and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, are expected to battle for Perry’s evangelical and social conservative backers.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who tied with Santorum in Iowa and won in New Hampshire, is currently leading in South Carolina polling.