Perry drops out, endorses Gingrich

Rick Perry (left) is reportedly dropping his presidential bid. According to the GOP, Rick Santorum (right) won the Iowa caucus.

CHARLESTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he is abandoning his presidential bid and endorsing Newt Gingrich.

"I've come to the conclusion that there is no viable path for me ..." Perry said. "I'm suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president of this country."

Perry has faced calls to drop out of the race in recent days as polls show him languishing while Gingrich gains steam.

"I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat," Perry said.

He said Gingrich is not perfect, "but who among us is?"

As Perry announced the end of his campaign, Ron Paul spoke in front of an energized College of Charleston crowd.

Also Thursday morning, Republican officials announced that Rick Santorum edged front-runner Mitt Romney by 34 votes in a surprise flip to the final results of the Iowa caucuses, but no winner was declared because some votes remain missing in the event’s closest finish ever.

Romney had initially been considered the winner — by just 8 votes — of the first contest in the GOP presidential nomination contest.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn announced the certified totals for the Jan. 3 caucuses at a news conference, but didn’t name an official winner because some votes can’t be counted. Results from 8 of the state’s 1,774 precincts are missing.

“Just as I did on the early morning hours on Jan. 4, I congratulate Sen. Santorum and Gov. Romney on a hard-fought effort during the closest contest in caucus history,” Strawn said.

The certified results: Santorum with 29,839 votes and Romney at 29,805, a difference of 34. Ron Paul finished third with 26,036.

The new numbers could give a boost to Santorum and other candidates trying to undermine Romney’s dominance over the field as South Carolina primary voters go to the polls Saturday.

In a statement, Romney called the Iowa results a “virtual tie.” The former Massachusetts governor praised Santorum’s “strong performance” in the state.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, and other GOP candidates are vying to attract voters seeking a more conservative alternative to Romney, who followed Iowa with a solid victory in New Hampshire, the second contest of the nomination race.

The Des Moines Register first reported the certified caucus totals on Thursday.