COLUMBIA, SC.--On Tuesday, GOP White House hopeful Rick Perry, still languishing in the single digits in polls told CNN he hoped in the Saturday South Carolina vote, "Lord willing, we'll do well and continue on." By Thursday, he suspended his campaign and endorsed Newt Gingrich. Gingrich, in Beaumont, SC, said he asked Perry to head up a 10th Amendment enforcement project, to get a law passed to "return power" to citizens and states.
Speaking near Charleston, Perry, who was getting only 4 percent in South Carolina according to a CNN poll, said he concluded there was no "viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign." In backing Gingrich, Perry said, "He is not perfect, but who among us is."
Perry in dropping out said he "provided right path forward" for party in making a "strategic retreat," will fight for conservative reforms.Perry said Gingrich can capture conservatives.
Since Perry had been getting so little support, it's hard to argue his backers will be game changers on Saturday, unless the contest is close and they migrate en masse to Gingrich. But Rick Santorum also has a draw among the same conservatives who backed Perry.
South Carolina prides itself on actually picking a winner who goes on to become the party nominee--so anti-Romney forces have to struggle between the state's place in primary history or getting together around one candidate to try to stop front-runner Mitt Romney.
Romney issued a terse statement. ""Rick Perry ran a campaign based upon love of country and conservative principles. He has earned a place of prominence as a leader in our party and I salute him for his commitment to making President Obama a one-term president and finally getting our nation's economy back on the right track. The nation owes Governor Perry a debt of gratitude for his years of service to his state and country. I wish Anita and him well."
Gingrich said in a statement, "I am humbled and honored to have the support of my friend Rick Perry. His selflessness is yet another demonstration of his deep sense of citizenship and commitment to the cause of limited government, historic American values and greater freedom for every American.
"Governor Perry will continue to be a leader for the cause of conservatism, especially for more American energy and for implementing the 10th Amendment across the country.
"South Carolinians have a chance this Saturday to nominate a bold Reagan conservative who will offer a dramatic contrast with President Obama this fall in the general election.
"I ask the supporters of Governor Perry to look at my record of balancing the budget, cutting spending, reforming welfare, and enacting pro-growth policies to create millions of new jobs and humbly ask for their vote."