Hello, "game-changer"? Texas Gov. Rick Perry abruptly ended his presidential campaign on Thursday, and urged his supporters to vote for Newt Gingrich instead. (Watch Perry's speech below.) "Newt is not perfect," Perry said, "but who among us is?" And in the end, the erstwhile frontrunner conceded, ex-House Speaker Gingrich is a "conservative visionary" who stands a better chance of winning the GOP nomination. Perry, dragged down by a series of gaffes, was polling in last place in South Carolina, which holds the next primary on Saturday. Gingrich and conservative writers had urged Perry to drop out and help unite the anti-Romney vote, which has been split among Gingrich, Perry, and Rick Santorum. Will this help the surging Gingrich win South Carolina — and prevent Romney from running away with the GOP nomination?

Perry might just help Gingrich stop Romney: Realistically, the flailing Perry actually "exited the race some time ago," says Steven L. Taylor at Outside the Beltway. It just didn't dawn on him until now. But in a close race in South Carolina, his endorsement could really matter. It's simple math: "Perry was drawing from the same type of voters that Gingrich was, so Perry getting out clearly helps" Newt chip away at Romney's lead.
"Perry out"

C'mon. This is no game-changer: "Perry is currently polling at only about 4 percent in South Carolina," says Jon Walker at Firedoglake. So "it is hard to imagine his endorsement of Gingrich is really going to sway many votes." Yes, it will "guarantee Gingrich some favorable press coverage just days before the South Carolina primary," and promote his image as the leading anti-Romney. But Perry's "pathetic campaign" was an embarrassment, so the clout and votes he has left to give amount to "almost nothing."
"Rick Perry giving up"

Of course it's a game-changer — for Santorum: As far as Newt and Mitt go, Perry's support of Gingrich merely offsets fellow dropout Jon Huntsman's recent endorsement of Romney, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. The candidate this affects most? "Rick Santorum, who had gotten the endorsement" of a group of key social conservative leaders last week, "and who could have used the boost" from Perry. The Texan's announcement might end up increasing the pressure on Santorum to "toss in the towel to back a single Romney alternative." That's pretty ironic considering that just this morning we learned that once all the votes were counted, it was Santorum, not Romney, who won this year's historically-close Iowa caucuses.
"CNN reports Perry to drop out today, will endorse Gingrich"

Watch Perry's speech for yourself: