19/01/2012 11:43 GMT | Updated 19/01/2012 11:44 GMT

Rick Perry Ends His Presidential Campaign, Endorses Newt Gingrich

Texas governor Rick Perry has announced he is dropping out of the race to become the Republican Party's nominee for president of the United States.

Speaking at a press conference in South Carolina on Thursday, Perry said he would instead throw his support behind former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"What's broken in America is not our people, it's our politics. What we need in Washington is a place that is humbler, with a federal government that is smaller so our people can live freer," said the 61-year-old.

"This campaign has never been about the candidates. I ran for president because I love America, I love our people, I love our freedom, as a matter of fact this mission is greater than any one man."

Giving his endorsement to Gingrich, Perry said that he never believed the "cause of conservatism" was embodied by one individual.

"We need bold conservative leadership that will take on entrenched interests," he said, adding: "I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country."

In a reference to an interview with Gingrich's ex-wife scheduled to be aired on ABC on Thursday night, in which she claims the former congressman wanted an "open marriage", Perry said: "Newt is not perfect, but who among us is? There is forgiveness for those who seek God."

"I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenant of my Christian faith," he added.

Perry entered the race last August to great fanfare as conservative Republicans sought an alternative to front runner Mitt Romney. He briefly led the polls, but a series of gaffes - forgetting one of the three federal agencies he would abolish during a live televised debate - saw his campaign falter and ultimately fail.

Perry had been widely expected to drop out of the nomination race after coming a disappointing fifth place in the Iowa Caucuses, however he held off withdrawing hoping for a surge. It never came.

The suspension of his campaign sees the Republican field tightening, with the seemingly moderate Romney the front-runner, followed by social-conservative former senator Rick Santorum and libertarian Ron Paul.