Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race Thursday and endorsed Newt Gingrich, a move that comes just two days before the South Carolina Republican primary.

The Texas governor, saying he will return to his state “with pride,” announced in South Carolina that “there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign.”

After surging to the front of the GOP field upon entering the race last summer, Perry struggled to sustain that support and endured disappointing finishes in the leadoff Iowa and New Hampshire contests. He said Thursday he entered the race with a “sense of calling,” but realizes “when it’s time to make a strategic retreat.”

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