Rick Perry To Drop Out Of Presidential Race

January 19, 2012 by staff 

Rick Perry To Drop Out Of Presidential RaceRick Perry To Drop Out Of Presidential Race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will abandon his presidential bid and endorse Newt Gingrich, two Republican officials said Thursday, just two days before the pivotal South Carolina primary and as Republican front-runner Mitt Romney struggles to fend off a new challenge from the former House speaker.

Perry scheduled a news conference Thursday morning in South Carolina to announce his decision.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the announcement.

Perry has faced calls to drop out of the race to compel conservative voters, whose support has been divided among several conservative candidates, to rally behind Gingrich in hopes of stopping Romney. Recent polls show Gingrich gaining steam heading into Saturday’s contest, but he still trails Romney by about 10 percentage points.

Romney has benefited so far from having several challengers who are considered more conservative than him competing for the same segment of voters.

Perry entered the race last August to great fanfare and high poll numbers. But his standing quickly fell after a series of mistakes called into question whether the Texas politician, who had never lost a race during his three-decade career in elected office, was ready for the national stage.

Perry’s biggest error came in a nationally televised debate in early November, when he could not remember the name of the third Cabinet department he pledged to eliminate.

“Oops,” he said. Making fun of himself afterward, he told reporters: “I stepped in it.”

Meanwhile, a swirl of late developments and sharpened campaign tactics have tightened the Republican nominating race in South Carolina before the state votes Saturday, but polls show front-running Mitt Romney still leading a hard-charging Gingrich by about 10 percentage points.

The first Southern-state vote is viewed as a chance for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and venture capitalist, to seal the contest to challenge a vulnerable President Barack Obama in November. The five candidates still in the Republican contest meet Thursday night for their second debate this week.

Since 1980, no Republican has won the presidential nomination without a victory in South Carolina.

Adding to a growing uncertainty about Saturday’s outcome was the release Thursday morning of the audited results of the leadoff Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, in which Romney initially had been considered the winner by 8 votes. A Republican official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to pre-empt the official announcement, said the certified results would show Santorum with 29,839 votes and Romney at 29,805, a difference of 34 votes. But problems in eight of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts leave the actual winner unclear.

In a written statement, Romney credited Santorum’s “strong performance” in the state.

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