Rick Perry abruptly quit the presidential race Thursday and threw his support to Newt Gingrich, a move aimed at slowing Mitt Romney’s march to the Republican nomination.

I have come to the conclusion that there is not a viable path forward for me in 2012,” said Perry, his expression taut as he read from a prepared statement.

Acknowledging past differences with the former House speaker, Perry said Gingrich was nevertheless “a conservative visionary who can transform our country.”

The 2012 election, Perry said, is not just about defeating President Obama, but replacing him “with a conservative leader who will bring about real change.”