UPDATED: 11:23 a.m.
The race to the GOP nomination has lost another candidate.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced in Charleston this morning that he was suspending his race, after losing two key endorsements and sliding in the polls, and will support former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
At a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in North Charleston, Perry thanked his supporters and his family for their support.
Perry made reference several times in his comments that this election hasn't been about one man.
"Our objective isn't just to defeat President Obama, but to replace him with a conservative leader who will bring about real change," Perry said.
That conservative for Perry is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"I have no question Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer, the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement (and) the courage to tell those Washington interests to take a hike if it's what is best for the country."
The campaign is over, but Perry said the cause continues. "I am not done fighting for the cause of conservatism," he said. "In fact, I have only begun to fight."
Read his full remarks in the PDF attached to this story.
When Perry entered the race at a Republican gathering in downtown Charleston, some candidates had already been on the trail for months, and they had refined their debate skills. Still, there was enthusiasm for Perry, who appeared to provide something different in the field of candidates. But expectations for Perry might have been too high, said Howard Chalmers, a Mount Pleasant campaign volunteer.
"His early debate performances didn't help, and he never really recovered," Chalmers said. "I still think he's the guy with the best conservative credentials, the best social and fiscal policy and defense ideas. This just wasn't his time."
Among the remaining candidates, Perry backers were likely to coalesce around Gingrich or former Sen. Rick Santorum, but the endorsement probably pushes many backers to Gingrich's camp.
"Gov. Perry's supporters are a really loyal group, so the endorsement carries a lot of weight," said Chalmers, who hasn't decided who he will vote for now. "I think Perry supporters are not likely to be Romney supporters."
S.C. Rep. Bill Taylor, a member of Perry's leadership team, said Perry will announce he's leaving the race and endorsing Newt Gingrich — a task he is encouraging all to do.
“With him stepping out, I’m definitely going to cast my ballot and urge others to vote for Newt Gingrich,” Taylor said. “He’s the best non-Romney candidate in the field.”
“Newt Gingrich comes with the intellect and savviness to challenge Barack Obama. I have been urging them this week to consider that an option because we simply need to consolidate the votes on the real conservatives in the race.”
Taylor said he still wanted Perry to be president even though he was urging him to step down.
Taylor said he stood with Perry because he believes he is a true conservative.
“He’s got the proven executive skills,” Taylor said. “I actually think he’s the Reaganesque leader.”
‘He has worked very hard. I think he’s had a huge impact on this race but with our first-in-the-south primary, South Carolina voters have a large voice in this, in choosing the Republican presidential nominee.”
Taylor said Perry has done a great job to steer the conversation to what Washington cannot do for Americans to what Americans need to do for themselves.
Not long after participating in two New Hampshire debates Perry left before the nation’s first primary votes had been cast to stake an early claim in South Carolina.
Perry announced his optimistic plans to continue on in the race when he tweeted "And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State... Here we come South Carolina!!!"
Despite his rekindled enthusiasm while campaigning in the Palmetto state his support continued to wane with the loss of financial support and the loss of local endorsements from Senator Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau) and Major General James Livingston.
The news of his decision came the day of the second of two South Carolina debates and just two days before the Palmetto state’s primary election.
Patch will provide updates as the story develops.