Could Perry dropping out unite conservatives?

Rick Perry quitting the race for the Republican presidential nomination and endorsing Newt Gingrich is more bad news for Mitt Romney.

Polls show the race has tightened (considerably) in South Carolina, which has its primary on Saturday. ... So Perry supporters backing Gingrich could bring enough votes to put him over the top.

Perry had come under enormous pressure from conservative leaders to get out of this race so voters could coalesce around a candidate who could be an alternative to Romney.

Perry's announcement is an important step in finding a social conservative who could be the alternative to Romney. But there's still another candidate out there voters like: Rick Santorum. He has a lot of support among social conservatives. He is saying he is not going to quit. Gingrich, of course, has been urging him to do so, saying people should just back Gingrich and let him go at it with Romney. But Santorum is very much in this race.

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And - today is an incredible day in politics - Iowa results have just been certified. Santorum won that state, not Romney, so he'll get some momentum today from that.

Also coming up - an interview airing tonight with a former wife of Newt Gingrich. That is a real concern in the Gingrich camp. And remember, in South Carolina, voters care about character, integrity and morals. And Newt Gingrich's ex-wife coming out in an extended interview talking about their divorce, their marriage, questioning many of the things Gingrich has been insisting about how all of that happened, could be a real problem for Gingrich.

Today will be a pivotal day, with the Perry announcement, the Iowa results, a debate tonight, and then the interview being broadcast tonight. Tomorrow morning, everything could look entirely different.

  • Jan Crawford On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.

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