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Rick Perry rides out of the Republican race

But will his departure help Newt?

Texas governor Rick Perry has done what many thought inevitable after his poor result in Iowa and dropped out of the Republican race.

In a press conference today in North Charleston, South Carolina, Perry said: "I know when it's time to make a strategic defeat ... The mission is greater than the man and there is no way viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign."

Perry went on to endorse former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, calling him a "visionary" with the "ability to rally and capture the conservative movement". Perry said that he heads back to Texas with his pride intact and with the same objective -- to replace President Obama with a conservative leader.

The news hardly comes as a surprise seeing as Perry trailed in fifth place in Iowa and skipped the New Hampshire primary altogether. His debate performances throughout the race have been lacklustre and his inability to name the three federal agencies that he would eliminate if elected president arguably sealed his fate some time ago.

Perry's endorsement of Gingrich is equally unsurprising. Both sit to the right of frontrunner Mitt Romney and have known each other for some time; Gingrich wrote the introduction to Perry's book Fed Up. With Gingrich and Santorum now the only conservative alternatives to Romney, the former Speaker's camp will be hoping that, with Perry's endorsement, they can steer his donors and supporters towards Gingrich.

However, Perry's endorsement might not actually help Gingrich much at all. Since Monday night's debate Gingrich has already gained significant ground and much of this was at Perry's expense. Therefore, voters may have already thrown their support behind Gingrich days ago, which would account for his surge.

With another debate tonight and the primary two days away, the best thing Gingrich can do right now is ride the wave of momentum in South Carolina and continue to coalesce the non-Romney vote.

Although Gingrich has won strong reviews from conservative commentators following an impressive debate on Monday night, he still faces several hurdles surrounding his infidelity and second wife Marianne Gingrich's claims that the GOP presidential hopeful wanted an "open marriage".

The race for the Republican nomination now consists of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Perry became the fourth Republican candidate to drop out of the race after former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman ended his presidential bid on Monday.