Rick Perry on Thursday suspended his bid for the GOP nomination for president and threw his support behind Newt Gingrich, ABC News reported.

With his wife, Anita, by his side, Perry, 61, told reporters that Gingrich was the Republican candidate who best represented “bold and conservative leadership.”

“I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country,” Perry said. “We've had our differences, which campaigns inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”

“We must rise to the occasion and elect a conservative champion to put our nation back on track,” he added.

Perry's endorsement is a huge win for Gingrich, who appears poised for a comeback in Saturday's South Carolina primary.

“I don't know how many votes Perry had, but it's just one less person to look at,” South Carolina GOP strategist Chip Felkel told The Wall Street Journal. “The vote against [Mitt] Romney is now being split in fewer ways, and that helps build the case that Gingrich is the guy.”

Perry created controversy with the release of an ad in Iowa lamenting the end of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the policy which for 18 years banned gay and bisexual troops from serving openly. The ad, titled Strong, inspired numerous parodies on the Internet. Perry's stance on gay marriage also gave voters pause. He first said he backed a state's right to decide on the issue but later added that he favors a federal amendment to the constitution that would define marriage as a heterosexual union.

The Texas governor, who said he would return home with “pride,” is the fourth GOP candidate to bow out of the GOP contest. Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman have also suspended their bids. Cain and Bachmann oppose any government recognition of gay and lesbian couples, while Huntsman said he supports civil unions.