Rick Perry Leaves GOP Prez Race, Endorses Newt Gingrich

Politics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 19, 2012   |   10:59AM   |   Washington, DC

Texas governor Rick Perry is suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination for president today after a disappointing campaign that saw him move from early frontrunner to second-tier status.

Perry brought a lengthy pro-life record to the race to replace pro-abortion President Barack Obama but poor debate performances took their toll and made it so Perry dropped from leading the GOP race to a fifth place finish in Iowa and a dead last finish in New Hampshire. Perry appeared to consider getting out of the race after the new Hampshire primary but suddenly jumped back in and said he would fight to regroup in South Carolina, which votes Saturday as the third state in the primary election process.

“I ran for president because I love America, I love our people, and our freedom,” Perry said at a press conference today. “”Our objective is to defeat Obama and replace him with a conservative who will bring about real change.”

Perry indicated he would support Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign as the former House speaker attempts to become the primary alternative to leading candidate Mitt Romney, who revised vote counts show came in a narrow second place finish to Rick Santorum in Iowa and who won the New Hampshire primary handily.

“There is no viable path forward, therefore I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich,” Perry said. He added that not everyone agrees in politics but he supports Newt as a “conservative reformer” and noted Gingrich’s personal past saying that God forgives those who earnestly seek His forgiveness.

The Romney campaign released a statement after Perry’s press conference, with the former governor saying:

“Rick Perry ran a campaign based upon love of country and conservative principles. He has earned a place of prominence as a leader in our party and I salute him for his commitment to making President Obama a one-term president and finally getting our nation’s economy back on the right track. The nation owes Governor Perry a debt of gratitude for his years of service to his state and country. I wish Anita and him well.”

Perry finished behind former Speaker Newt Gingrich with the support of 10 percent of Iowa voters and ahead of Rep. Michele Bachmann, who dropped out after coming in sixth place with the backing of only five percent of voters in the state of her birthplace. After New Hampshire, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman dropped out and endorsed Romney.

During the campaign, Perry announced that he had a change of heart on abortion in cases of rape or incest — now opposing abortion in such rare cases. Perry said his change of heart came after meeting with Rebecca Kiessling, a pro-life attorney who was born after her birthmother was a victim of sexual assault.

“This is something that is relatively new and it goes back to a meeting with Rebecca Kiessling, who was at the The Gift of Life,” Perry said about meeting her at a recent showing of the new movie. “We had a fairly lengthy and heartfelt conversation about how she was conceived in rape. Looking in her eyes, I couldn’t come up with an answer to defend exceptions for rape and incest.”

“Over the course of the last few weeks, the Christmas holiday, reflecting on that – I would suggest that my pro-life position has been rather strong as the Governor of Texas. But she made a statement to me that was really strong and pierced my heart. As I signed that document, I will suggest to you that all I can tell you is God was working on my heart,” he said.

“You’re seeing a transformation,” Perry said of his thinking on abortion and called his conversation with Kiessling “powerful.”

Perry’s defunding of Planned Parenthood resulted in the shutdown of 12 Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas. Since 2005, Gov. Perry has signed budgets that include millions for pregnancy resource centers and other pro-life agencies that assist pregnant women.

The governor also signed a ban on late-term abortions and a law that requires a doctor to perform a sonogram on an expectant mother before performing an abortion. Additionally, every Texas budget signed by Gov. Perry prohibits funding of abortions by tax dollars. Perry has an extensive pro-life record in Texas and has received top grades from pro-life groups there. He has called for de-funding Planned Parenthood nationally as well.