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His slim chances of becoming the nominee having sunk in, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has dropped his presidential bid, two days before the South Carolina primary.

"I've never believed that the cause of conservatism is embodied by one individual," Perry said in a Thursday press conference announcing his departure from the race and his endorsement of Newt Gingrich.

"I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country," he said, adding that while Gingrich is not perfect, he believes that there's forgiveness for those who seek God. "I have no question that Newt Gingrich has the heart of a conservative reformer; the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement; the courage to tell those Washington interests to take a hike if that's what's in the best interest of our country. As a Texan, I've never shied away from a fight, particularly when I consider the cause to be righteous. But ... I know when it's time to make a strategic retreat."

On the bright side, at least Perry, who was polling in last place in South Carolina, is off the hook for tonight's Republican presidential debate as he returns to Texas.

In other election news, the Des Moines Register reported today that, after a recount, Rick Santorum actually finished ahead of Mitt Romney in the Iowa Republican caucuses by 34 votes. However, the question of who won for sure is still unresolved:

Results from eight precincts are missing -- any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney -- and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.

... The certified numbers: 29,839 for Santorum and 29,805 for Romney. The turnout: 121,503.

It's not a surprise that the ultra-thin gap of eight votes on caucus night didn't hold up, but it's tough to swallow the fact that there will always be a question mark hanging over this race, politics insiders said.

The state GOP just declared it a tie. Though the Register doesn't explain why the votes are missing "and will never be recovered," the updated tally is unlikely to change the political narrative -- with Romney leading in the polls, followed by a picking-up-steam Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul in third.

Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.