Texas Governor Rick Perry will drop out of the GOP presidential race ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary.
Perry will reportedly endorse former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
The Perry announcement came on the same day GOP candidates were set to hold their final debate before the South Carolina primary. Yet his decision should not be a surprise. Perry has been dead in the water for a while now.
Perry leaving the race is good for the Republican Party, and shows that GOP grilling has weeded out all of the unelectable "joke" candidates. Had Perry continued to stagger through the primaries, he would have detracted from more important debates, especially those between GOP front-runners Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
Perry was nothing more than a comedy candidate (and in a South Carolina primary that features Stephen Colbert, he was the worst of the comedy candidates), one the media latched on to every time he opened his mouth. By leaving the race, Republicans can turn their attention to the ideological debate brewing between the more moderate Romney and the libertarian Paul — a battle that will shape the Republican Party in 2012 and for years down the road.
"I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in the 2012 campaign," Perry said at a press conference in South Carolina. "I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat."
Too bad there wasn't one last Perry zinger in that announcement.
The Texas governor was incredibly gaffe-prone, becoming a joke throughout this GOP campaign. His "oops" moment in November — when during a GOP debate Perry said he would cut three government agencies, yet couldn't list what the three were as he stumbled through his list — was his first nail in the coffin.
(Watch here, at the 1:40 mark)
His presidential viability had already been put into question a week before that debate when, while giving a speech in New Hampshire, Perry was so animated that many people thought he might have been drunk.
At one point, though, Perry was seen as the GOP hero — the first anti-Romney — in the 2012 race. In September of last year, Perry polled at the top of a crowded GOP field, 9% higher than Romney. Around the same time, Perry was also applauded for presenting a simplified national flat tax that would help solve America's national debt problem.
Yet Perry could never capitalize on this momentum. A politician who hated to participate in televised debates, Perry fell victim to constant GOP roasts and an uncompromising media.
As Perry leaves the presidential race, we can now count on debates becoming much more serious.
PolicyMic will have live coverage of tonight's GOP primary debate in South Carolina, as well as after-debate analysis.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore