Five months and five days ago I squeezed into the largest ballroom in all of Charleston, South Carolina to watch Gov. Perry get into the GOP presidential race. It was over capacity, packed with people and even more crowded with lofty expectations. He shot to the top of the polls, but fell almost as fast.
Perry's problems have been well-chronicled and I won't list them here, but this has to be especially tough for a governor who never lost a race and is now getting out largely due to problems of his own making.
After starting his campaign in this very same city, Perry realized what many had been saying for weeks -- that voters just weren't going to come around to his brand of state's rights and Christian values conservativism, and it was time to get out of the way.
There was no music. No cheering crowd Thursday as Gov. Perry entered the room; just the whir of cameras to record the invetiable and Perry's own quiet realization that the ride was over.
He apparently made the decision Wednesday night with family and friends. But there is a question of how much of a decision it was. He was largely out of money when he got to South Carolina, was polling in last place -- as he did in New Hampshire and not much worse than he did in Iowa -- and his once well-funded super PAC is out of cash.
Wiser people than me point out that campaigns don't end when they run out of ideas, but when the money runs out.
Perry's ideas might not be catching fire with South Carolina voters, but his donors decided it first.
His team did say that they wanted to give South Carolina voters some time to digest Perry's announcement and decide who they will support ahead of Saturday's primary.
The race goes on as the governor said it's time to retreat and he's going home today.
"As I've contemplated the future of this campaign, I have come to the conclusion that there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign," Perry said. "Therefore, today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich for president of the United States. I believe Newt is a conservative visionary."
Newt Gingrich gets Perry's support, but there is no plan yet for Perry to campaign with him.
Gingrich said he was "humbled and honored" to have Perry's support and said in a statement: "I ask the supporters of Governor Perry to look at my record of balancing the budget, cutting spending, reforming welfare, and enacting pro-growth policies to create millions of new jobs and humbly ask for their vote."
Mitt Romney said that Perry "has earned a place of prominence as a leader in our party and I salute him for his commitment to making President Obama a one-term president and finally getting our nation's economy back on the right track."
As residents of South Carolina vote here, Perry will be at home in Texas, left to wonder along with his few still loyal supporters about what could've been.
"Churchill says a politician tells you what you want to hear, a statesman tells you what you need to hear. Perry would tell us what we need to hear. It just didn't come out as smooth, but at least Perry said it," said Perry supporter Mike Frazier.
While Perry doesn't have a huge following -- polls show Gingrich and Romney tied in South Carolina -- a Perry bump could give the former speaker the win on Saturday.