Texas Governor Rick Perry was poised to drop his run for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination later on Thursday, CNN reported, and he scheduled a news conference in South Carolina for 11 a.m. EST (2 p.m. British time).

Perry entered the race in August and briefly was at the front of the pack of Republican candidates, but a series of gaffes and controversial statements during the campaign undermined his standing in polls. CNN cited two unnamed sources in saying Perry would drop his candidacy later on Thursday.

Perry's reported decision comes ahead of Saturday's Republican primary in South Carolina. Perry's poll numbers remain low in that conservative Southern state where he had hoped to revive his campaign.

Perry had roared past former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to take the lead in polls of the Republican candidates after entering the race.

His conservative views and support from the grassroots Tea Party movement had seemed to position him as a top contender in the race for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

But Perry, who had never previously lost an election, foundered after several poor debate performances in which he was hammered by his rivals over his immigration policies and for ordering that young girls in Texas be vaccinated for a sexually transmitted virus.

He was ridiculed after a major debate stumble in November when he could not remember one of the three government agencies that he had repeatedly said he would eliminate if elected president.

Turkey condemned as unfounded and inappropriate on Tuesday comments by Perry this week that the country, a close U.S. ally, is ruled by Islamic terrorists and questioning whether it should remain in the NATO alliance.

(Reporting By Will Dunham)