Perry's Exit, Gingrich Endorsement Shake Up Race

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The Republican presidential race took a dramatic turn Thursday as it heads into the South Carolina primary.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he is dropping out of the presidential race and endorsing former opponent Newt Gingrich.

"As I have contemplated the future of this campaign I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign," he told reporters during an 11 a.m. news conference in North Charleston, S.C.

"I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country," Perry continued. "Newt is not perfect, but who among us is? The fact is that there is forgiveness for those who seek God and I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenet of my Christian faith."

The endorsement is a huge boost for Gingrich, who appears to have momentum going into Saturday's primary vote.

Polls show him within striking distance of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Earlier this week CBN News asked Gingrich how the dynamics of the campaign would change for him if Perry withdrew.

"As the conservatives shrink down and it ends up only being Romney and me, then you're in a very, very different race," Gingrich said. "There's no place where he would have beaten the unified conservative vote."

Still, Gingrich faces criticism, especially as his past continues to resurface today.

In an exclusive interview scheduled to air on ABC's "Nightline" Thursday night, the former House speaker's ex-wife Marianne Gingrich claims he wanted an "open marriage."

"I said to him, 'We've been married a long time.' And he said, 'Yes, but you want me all to yourself,'" Marianne said.

"And I refused," she continued. "(He wanted) that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life ... That is not a marriage."

Marianne Gingrich said that her ex-husband doesn't have the moral character to lead the nation. Gingrich had no comment.

Meanwhile, Romney, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Gingrich will go head-to-head Thursday night in their final debate before South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary.

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George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

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