Perry adviser Ray Sullivan said the Texas governor will not rule out running for re-election — "as you know, we don't have term limits in Texas" — or even running for the presidency in four years.
"Keep in mind that almost all of our nominees in the last 50 years have been on their second attempt at the White House, so Republican voters tend to like experienced candidates that they’ve seen for a long time,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he learned of the governor's decision at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at a Wendy's restaurant.
“He told me of his intention to make an announcment today and to respect the voters of South Carolina and give them an opportunity to choose among candidates in stronger position to move forward,” Sullivan said.
The governor will be home in Texas for a few days, Sullivan said, and could hit the trail for Gingrich if the former House speaker wants him to. Sullivan said Perry called Gingrich about an hour before the press conference to let him know his intentions.
Sullivan said Perry endorsed Gingrich over Romney because "it was an issue of friendship, familiarity and conservatism from Gov. Perry’s standpoint.”
Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the Republican presidential race on Thursday morning, saying he knows "when it's time to make a strategic retreat."
"As I've contemplated the future of this campaign," Perry said in a morning press conference, "I've come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me."
Flanked by his wife and his son, Perry endorsed former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, then said he would leave the trail and head home to Texas.
"The journey leads me back to Texas, neither discouraged nor disenchanted, but instead rewarded highly by the experience, and resolute to remain in the arena and in the service of my country," Perry said.
Perry's decision comes a day after a spokesmen defiantly said that Perry was "in it to win it" and called talk of a surrender "nuts." Perry made the decision overnight and informed top aides Thursday morning.
During Thursday morning's press conference, Perry said he got into the race to ensure President Obama was defeated. Despite his differences with Gingrich — Perry has long attacked him for being an out-of-touch Washington insider — the Texas governor called the former House speaker a “conservative visionary who can transform our country.”
“We’ve had our differences ... and Newt is not perfect,” Perry said. “But who among us is? The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God.”
Below, we've posted the rough transcript of Gov. Perry's remarks. (Note: His campaign said he often "deviates" from prepared speeches.)
Thank you. As I have stated numerous times on the campaign trail, this campaign has never been about the candidates.
I ran for President because I love America, our people and our freedom.
But the mission is greater than the man.
As I have traveled across this great country: from New Hampshire to California, from Iowa to Florida, and to numerous states in between, I have discovered a tremendous purpose and resiliency in our people.
They have never lost hope despite current circumstances.
They haven't stopped believing in the promise of America or the American Dream.
Americans are down, but we can never be counted out. We are too great a people.
What is broken in America is not our people, but our politics.
And what we need is a Washington that is humbler, with a federal government that is smaller so our people can live freer.
I entered this campaign offering a unique perspective: a governor who has led a large state leading the nation in job creation, an executive leader who has implemented conservative policies, a son of tenant farmers born with little more than a good name, but who has experienced the great possibilities of freedom.
But I have never believed that the cause of conservatism is embodied by any one individual.
Our party, and the conservative philosophy, transcends any one individual.
It is a movement of ideas that are greater than any one of us, and that will live beyond our years.
As a former Air Force pilot, I know we can't lose track of the ultimate objective in carrying out our mission, and that objective is not only to defeat President Obama, but to replace him with a conservative leader who will bring about real change.
Our country is hurting with more than 13 million unemployed, nearly 50 million on food stamps and a debt of more than $15 trillion and growing.
We need bold, conservative leadership that will take on the entrenched interests and give the American People their country back.
I have always believed the mission is greater than the man.
As I have contemplated the future of this campaign, I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path to victory for my candidacy in 2012.
Therefore, today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president.
I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country.
We have had our differences, which campaigns inevitably bring out. And Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?
The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God and I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenet of my own Christian faith.
And I have no question Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer, the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement and the courage to tell the Washington interests to take a hike if it's what is best for the country.
As a Texan, I have never shied away from a good fight, especially when the cause was right.
But as someone who has always admired a great Texas forefather -- Sam Houston -- I know when it is time for a "strategic retreat."
So I will leave the trail, return home to Texas and wind down my 2012 campaign organization. And I will do so with pride knowing I gave myself fully to a cause worthy of our country.
And as I head home, I do so with the love of my life by my side, a woman who makes every day a good one when she is by my side, my wife Anita.
Thank you Anita for all you have done.
I also want to thank my son Griffin, my daughter Sydney, and my daughter-in-law Meredith for standing with us in this great effort.
With a good wife, three wonderful children, and a loving God in my life, things will be good no matter what the future holds.
I'm proud of the policies we put forward to the American people and believe they provide the right path forward for our party and our nation: overhauling Washington and returning power to state and local governments and to the people, creating energy jobs and energy security, cutting spending and eliminating unnecessary federal agencies and cutting taxes to a flat, fair 20 percent.
And I will continue to fight for these conservative reforms because the future of our country is at stake and the road we are traveling today - President Obama's road - endangers our future.
I want to thank some wonderful individuals who have stood by my side in this state: Katon Dawson, Ambassador Wilkins, and a strong and good man serving you in Congress, Mick Mulvaney.
I want to thank all my supporters from across the country, in particular Governor Bobby Jindal, Steve Forbes and Governor Sam Brownback, as well as Senator Jim Inhofe, Congresswoman Candice Miller and Congressman Sam Graves.
And I want to say a special thanks to three distinguished veterans who have joined me on the campaign trail: Medal of Honor awardee and Navy SEAL Mike Thornton, Navy Cross recipient Marcus Luttrell and Purple Heart recipient, Marine Captain Dan Moran.
I began this race with a sense of calling.
I felt led into this arena to fight for the future of this country.
I feel no different today than I did then, knowing a calling never guarantees a particular destination, but a journey that tests one's faith and character.
So now the journey leads us back to Texas, neither discouraged nor disenchanted, but instead rewarded for the experience and resolute to remain in the arena and in the service of a great nation.
Our country needs bold leadership and a real transformation.
We must rise to the occasion and elect a conservative champion to put our nation back on the right track.
And this I know, I am not done fighting for the cause of conservatism. In fact I have only begun to fight.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.