And then there were five. I mean six.
Just hours after Michele Bachmann suspended her presidential campaign, Rick Perry -- who had said late Tuesday night that he would return to Texas to reassess his campaign in light of his fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses -- announced that he would press on after all.
And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State...Here we come South Carolina!!! Perry tweeted at 11:14 a.m. on Wednesday, along with a photo of him standing next to a lake, wearing a black running jacket, shorts, leggings and sneakers with green fluorescent laces, and giving a thumbs-up.
It was a somewhat surprising announcement, coming so soon after he told supporters on Tuesday, With the voters' decision tonight, I've decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race. He received 10.3 percent of the vote in Iowa -- 5 points ahead of Bachmann, but 14 points below top finishers Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
Skipping New Hampshire Primary
It seems Perry will follow his original plan of skipping the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday, which Mitt Romney is all but certain to win, and heading straight to South Carolina, which will hold the third contest of the primary season on Jan. 21. Iowa and South Carolina are the most conservative of the 11 states that will vote before Super Tuesday, and it would be extremely difficult for a conservative candidate like Perry to win the nomination without winning at least one of those two states.
South Carolina is, by any practical measure, Perry's last chance to salvage his campaign, and it is a slim chance: he is polling just 5.7 percent there, about half what he polled in Iowa. Only Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman are behind Perry in the Palmetto State, and Santorum could easily surpass him with the momentum from his Iowa showing.
And, because South Carolina is the make-it-or-break-it contest for several candidates, Perry will face fierce competition for the top spot. Newt Gingrich, who finished fourth in Iowa, also needs to win South Carolina to show that he is still a viable candidate in spite of his slip in the polls, and Santorum needs to win it to prove he is not a one-hit wonder.