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Texas Governor Rick Perry ended his run for president today. He threw his support behind former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Perry made his announcement in South Carolina, the same state where he launched his campaign last August. Ben Philpott, of member station KUT, has this report.
BEN PHILPOTT, BYLINE: After his fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Governor Perry said he would take time to re-assess his campaign and see if there was a way forward. He found one the next morning, deciding to skip New Hampshire and make his last stand in South Carolina. But after two weeks of campaigning here without gaining support in the polls, the path ended today.
GOV. RICK PERRY: As I've contemplated the future of this campaign, I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign. Therefore, today I am suspending my campaign, and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president of the United States.
PHILPOTT: The Gingrich endorsement comes as the former speaker has gained momentum here in South Carolina. Several polls show him slightly ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, but the nod from Perry also comes just hours before a broadcast of an ABC News interview with one of Gingrich's ex-wives. Marianne Gingrich gives intimate details of their marriage and break-up. Perry seemed to acknowledge the coming criticism in his endorsement.
PERRY: We've had our differences, which campaigns will inevitably have. And Newt is not perfect, but who among us is? The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God.
PHILPOTT: Gingrich acknowledged Perry's endorsement at a campaign stop in South Carolina, saying he was honored and humbled by the support.
NEWT GINGRICH: Callista and I are both very fond of Rick and Anita Perry. They are terrific people. He has been a great patriot. He understands exactly the mission of defending and expanding freedom, and he understands that every citizen has different ways to participate.
PHILPOTT: So what's next for Perry? He flew back to Texas this afternoon and will take some time deciding if he'll campaign for Gingrich. Even if he doesn't hit the road, the former speaker has asked Perry to head up something called the 10th Amendment Enforcement Project. Gingrich says the group will come up with a party platform plank and bill defending states' rights. Beyond that - well, Texas doesn't have term limits. And campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan said the governor hasn't ruled out another re-election bid, in 2014.
RAY SULLIVAN: That is certainly a strong option, as would be - maybe doing this again in four years, if the president wins.
PHILPOTT: Sullivan says the GOP typically picks nominees who've run before. And despite the way this campaign ended - with stumbles, poor debates and dreadful election results - Perry's South Carolina chairman, Katon Dawson, said he would be ready to do it all over again.
KATON DAWSON: We want our nominee to beat President Obama. There's no question. We want our nominee to beat President Obama, but all I'm doing is putting the stickers in my top closet and changing the date if we're not successful.
PHILPOTT: Dawson says Perry made real connections with people on the campaign trail, but that there wasn't time left to shake enough hands to turn the campaign around.
For NPR News, I'm Ben Philpott in North Charleston, South Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.