The Associated Press is reporting that Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to drop out of the Republican presidential race this morning and endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich:
That’s according to Republican officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the Republican presidential candidate’s announcement.
Perry plans a news conference at 11 a.m. in South Carolina, where he will announce his decision.
He has faced calls to drop out of the race in recent days as polls show him languishing while Gingrich gains steam.
Perry, who is arguably the most anti-gay governor in Texas history, ran a decidedly homophobic campaign.
Even before announcing his presidential bid, he organized a day of prayer in Houston funded by the American Family Association, which is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The event, called The Response, drew a huge response from, among others, the LGBT community, with activists staging counterdemonstrations in H-Town during a sweltering first weekend of August. Perry insisted The Response wasn’t political, but a week later he announced his campaign for president.
Republicans were smitten, and Perry skyrocketed to the top of GOP presidential polls — positioning himself as a highly-sought-after, more conservative alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney.
Just before he formally launched his presidential bid, Perry stated at an event in Colorado that he believed marriage is a state’s rights issue and New York’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage was “fine with me.” Under intense pressure from social conservatives, he quickly retracted the statement and came out firmly in support of a federal marriage amendment.
But that didn’t stop Rob Schlein, then president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, from writing a controversial column in which he said he would vote for Perry over President Barack Obama, despite the governor’s anti-gay record. The column was one of several factors that led National Log Cabin to de-charter the Dallas chapter, which is now known as Metroplex Republicans.
Perry would go on to sign a pledge from the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and come out against the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” But in the end, it appears his right-wing credentials weren’t enough to overcome major, repeated gaffes during nationally televised debates this fall. In the most memorable one, Perry forgot the third federal department he would eliminate as president in what has become known as his “oops” moment.
Desperate to recover from the gaffes, Perry’s campaign lurched even further to the right — releasing a campaign ad called “Strong” in which he declared: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”
“Strong” spawned many parodies, with some harping on the fact that Perry’s jacket in the ad resembled the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. “Strong” also garnered the second-most dislikes of any video on YouTube. Above all, though, where it really counts among Republican voters, the ad didn’t work.
Perry finished fifth in Iowa and last in New Hampshire. He was polling last in South Carolina, which holds its primary Saturday, prior to his decision to drop out.