Perry to drop out of GOP race, endorse Gingrich for president

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is dropping out of the presidential race and will endorse Newt Gingrich, according to a campaign source. 

Perry, who trails GOP front-runner Mitt Romney badly and fared miserably in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, is telling supporters he will drop his bid for the nomination. 

Perry has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m in North Charleston, S.C.

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The Texas governor entered the race in August to much fanfare and immediately topped polls. But a series of disastrous debate performances, including one in which he failed to remember the three government agencies would shut down as president, left him behind the GOP pack.

An NBC-Marist poll released on Thursday showed Perry in fifth place among South Carolina voters, with 4 percent of the vote. Romney led with 34 percent — Perry also trailed Gingrich with 24 percent, Ron Paul with 16 percent and Rick Santorum with 14 percent. 

Perry and Gingrich have worked together in the past, and Perry's endorsement would help solidify Gingrich's position as the conservative "anti-Romney" challenger. Gingrich has shown the momentum in South Carolina that Perry's campaign failed to achieve, polling second behind Romney in polls on Wednesday.

Perry's campaign spent much of Wednesday denying rumors that the Texas governor would drop out of the race. 

But Wednesday was a bad day for the campaign, as two prominent conservatives — Erick Erickson and Laura Ingraham — called for him to drop out and endorse another candidate ahead of the South Carolina vote on Saturday. 

“Pundits aren’t going to decide this race. The people of South Carolina are going to decide this race,” Perry spokesman Mark Miner told ABC News. “The governor’s focused on the people of South Carolina and their votes, not a pundit sitting behind a computer somewhere.” 

Perry also canceled an event Wednesday at Bob Jones University, and Miner told the Houston Chronicle the event was "always tentative" and that Perry's plan was to travel to Charleston for Thursday night's GOP debate.

Perry has been battling Gingrich and Santorum to be seen as the conservative alternative to Romney, and the NBC-Marist poll suggested he was getting little traction even in South Carolina. Perry had hoped to emerge in South Carolina after basically skipping over New Hampshire, with the mindset that South Carolina's more conservative voters might rally around a fellow Southerner. 

Perry would become the second presidential candidate to drop out of the race this week. He would follow former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who bowed out on Monday.

—This story was updated at 10:01 a.m.