"Newt's not perfect, but who among us is?" Perry said. He called the former House speaker a "conservative visionary" best suited to replace Barack Obama in the White House.
While the ultimate impact of Perry's decision was unclear, it reduced the number of conservative challengers to Mitt Romney. The decision also reinforced the perception that Gingrich is the candidate on the move in the final hours of the South Carolina campaign, and that front-runner Romney is struggling to hold onto his lead there.
Perry had scarcely finished speaking when Gingrich issued a statement welcoming the endorsement. "I ask the supporters of Governor Perry to look at my record of balancing the budget, cutting spending, reforming welfare, and enacting pro-growth policies to create millions of new jobs and humbly ask for their vote," Gingrich said.
Romney reacted by praising Perry for running "a campaign based upon love of country and conservative principles" and saying he "has earned a place of prominence as a leader in our party."
Perry said he decided to suspend his campaign after concluding "there is no viable path forward for me."
Spokesman Ray Sullivan said money was also a factor: "We have spent the bulk of our funds." Perry chose to drop out before Saturday's primary because he wanted to "respect" the state's voters by giving them a choice among other candidates, Sullivan said.
Perry made his decision Wednesday night and began telling staff and supporters, spokesman Ray Sullivan said. The Texas governor called Gingrich with the news this morning to inform the former House speaker of his endorsement.