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.

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Leader: The chaos and mendacity of Trump’s White House

That General Flynn was the first of the president’s men to fall should perhaps not have caused surprise.

In his inauguration speech on 20 January, Donald Trump used the phrase “American carnage” to ­describe the state of the US under Barack Obama. The description was correct, but President Trump had the timing wrong – for the carnage was still to come. Just a few weeks into his presidency, the real-estate billionaire and reality-TV star has become embroiled in more controversy and scandals than Mr Obama experienced in eight years. His ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US caused chaos at airports both at home and abroad and damaged America’s global standing. It was a false claim that the executive order, since suspended by the courts, would make the US safer. By alienating and stigmatising Muslims, it may well do the opposite.

The decision to pursue the policy so recklessly and hastily demonstrates Mr Trump’s appalling judgement and dubious temperament. It also shows the malign anti-Islamic influence of those closest to him, in particular his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, his senior adviser Stephen Miller, and Michael Flynn, the retired general who on 13 February resigned as ­national security adviser after only 24 days in the job.

That General Flynn was the first of the president’s men to fall should perhaps not have caused surprise, given his reputation for anger and arrogance. As recently as August, the retired three-star general said that Islamism was a “vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people” and falsely claimed that Florida Democrats had voted to impose sharia law at state and local level. He also led the chants of “Lock her up!” aimed at Hillary Clinton during the Republican ­National Convention, which would have been appreciated by Mr Trump then and today by those who enjoy irony.

Now General Flynn is under investigation by justice officials. He resigned over revelations in the media, most notably the Washington Post, that before taking office he had discussed US sanctions against Moscow with the Russian ambassador. It is unlawful for private citizens of the US to ­interfere in diplomatic disputes with another country.

Before standing down, General Flynn had publicly denied talking about sanctions during calls and texts with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in late December. He had also issued misleading accounts of their conversation to Vice-President Mike Pence and other Trump officials who went on to defend him. Given President Trump’s propensity to lie, General Flynn may have believed that he could get away it. As the former chief of a Pentagon spy agency, however, he should have known that the truth would come out.

The FBI had wiretaps of the ambassador’s conversations with General Flynn. In January, the acting US attorney general – later sacked by President Trump for opposing his “Muslim ban” – informed the White House that General Flynn had lied about his communications with the ambassador and was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Yet it took newspaper revelations about the intercepts to bring the national security adviser down. American carnage, indeed.

The disruptive present

How has capitalism shaped the way we work, play and eat – and even our sense of identity? Nine writers explore the cutting edge of cultural change in the latest instalment of our New Times series in this week's magazine.

The past decades have brought enormous changes to our lives. Facebook became open to the public in 2006, the first iPhone was launched in June 2007 and Netflix launched in the UK in 2012. More and more of us are ceaselessly “on”, answering emails at night or watching video clips on the move; social media encourages us to perform a brighter, shinier version of ourselves. In a world of abundance, we have moved from valuing ownership to treating our beliefs as trophies. The sexual vocabulary and habits of a generation have been shaped by online pornography – and by one company, MindGeek, in particular. We cook less but love cookery shows. We worry about “fake news” as numbers of journalists decline. We have become gender consumers, treating it as another form of self-expression. These shifts in human behaviour have consequences for politics and politicians. “The question should always be,” as Stuart Hall wrote in 1988, “where is the ‘leading edge’ [of change] and in what direction is it pointing?” The question is even more apposite today.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times