Perry addressed his decision to abandon his campaign at a press conference in North Charleston. He said he came to the conclusion that there was no longer a "viable path" forward in the contest and added that he knows when it's "time to make a strategic retreat."
"I ran for president because I love America," he explained. "What's broken in America is not our people. It's our politics. And what we need in Washington is a government that's humbler."
Perry endorsed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the race for the Republican presidential nomination during his remarks.
He said, "I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country" and added, "Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?"
Gingrich addressed the endorsement in a statement.
"I am humbled and honored to have the support of my friend Rick Perry," he said. "His selflessness is yet another demonstration of his deep sense of citizenship and commitment to the cause of limited government, historic American values and greater freedom for every American."
On the heels of a disappointing fifth-place finish in the 2012 Iowa caucus, Perry said he was heading back to Texas to reassess his bid for the White House. The Wednesday after the Jan. 3 event, Perry wrote in a tweet, "And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State... Here we come South Carolina!!!"
Perry surged in the polls after announcing his candidacy for president last August. A series of missteps led the Lone Star State Republican's campaign to take a turn for the worse; however, and Perry struggled to recover.
After speculation began to swirl on Wednesday that Perry could exit the race, aides to the Texas governor signaled to HuffPost's Howard Fineman that the buzz was untrue.
Ray Sullivan, Perry's communications director, said the Republican hopeful will be at Thursday night's debate in South Carolina. He added, "He's not dropping out."
After news broke of Perry's decision to exit the race on Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told reporters, "He's a great man. He made a real contribution. He already has to his state and to our country."
(Scroll down for Perry's prepared remarks via the Texas governor's campaign.)
Below, a slideshow of memorable missteps and gaffes made by Perry over the course of his campaign.
At the CNBC debate on November 9, Perry famously forgot one of the government agencies he would eliminate if elected: "It's three government agencies when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the um, what's the third one there. Let's see," Perry said. He turned to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, looking for some help, but got nothing but a remark from Paul that he would eliminate five agencies. "Oh five," Perry said. "So Commerce, Education, and, uh, the uh, um, um." "EPA?" offered former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "EPA, there ya go," Perry said as the room exploded in laughter. CNBC moderator John Harwood honed in and pressed Perry: "Seriously? Is EPA the one you were talking about?" "No sir. No sir. We were talking about the, um, agencies of government," Perry said. "The EPA needs to be rebuilt." "But you can't name the third one?" Harwood persisted. "The third agency of government," Perry said. "I would do away with the education, the um, Commerce, and let's see. I can't think of the third one. I can't. Sorry. Oops."
During a campaign stop at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, Perry got both the voting age and the date of the 2012 presidential election wrong. "Those of you that will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote," he said to the students. The legal voting age has been 18 since the 26th Amendment was adopted in 1971. The general election is scheduled for November 6, 2012.
During a November interview with Fox News, Perry mistakenly referred to the New Hampshire "caucuses." When asked about the emergence of front runners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, Perry responded, "Americans haven't decided yet at all who they want to lead the Republican nomination, and we're going to be talking about that and we're going to be talking about it in harsh and strong terms over the course of the next four to five weeks as we get ready for those New Hampshire caucuses." New Hampshire holds primaries, not caucuses.
While speaking to Catcher Jones, a seven-year-old from Greenville, South Carolina in December, Perry flubbed the minimum age to run for president. "I'm glad you're not 21," Perry told Jones, who was wearing a t-shirt that said "Future President: Accepting Campaign Donations Now." Perry realized his mistake and added, "Or actually 35."
After a woman in South Carolina asked Perry what he thought about current United States military operations, Perry mistakenly started talking about the wars in Afghanistan and Iran. When an audience member alerted Perry to his error, he joked that his comment "will be on the front page."
Following a debate in New Hampshire, Perry met with fraternity brothers at Dartmouth College. When someone asked him about the issue of states' rights, Perry said that one of the "reasons we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown." The Revolutionary War occurred in the 18th century.
In an interview with CNN last year, Perry got stuck in a time warp. "Washington has abused the Constitution. You go back to the, a decade ago, with Woodrow Wilson..." Wilson was president from 1913 to 1921.
In October, an unusual performance at a speech in Manchester led many to question the candidate's sobriety. Perry later made a statement to dispel rumors that he was drinking or using painkillers during the speech.
During an interview with the Today Show last November, Perry told host Meredith Viera that "Bush did an incredible job, in the presidency, defending us from freedom."
While speaking with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, Perry struggled to remember Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's name: "Do you really think he [President Barack Obama] is waging a war on religion?" asked an editorial board member, referring to Perry's recent ad pledging to "end Obama's war on religion" and "fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage" as president. "I do because when you see his appointment of two -- from my perspective, inarguably -- activist judges, whether it was," he said, then trailing off for about six seconds trying to recall her name. "Montomayor," he said. Someone on the editorial board said Sotomayor's name. "Sotomayor and [Elena] Kagan, who are both activist judges," he continued.
Below, Perry's remarks as prepared for delivery.
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.