Laura Ingraham, Erick Erickson: It's time for Perry to go

Hard to argue. South Carolina’s the last stand of the Not Romneys. Join or die. Erickson:

For a generation, Rick Perry was undefeated. Now he will go back to Texas and everyone who ever lost to Rick Perry will seek to settle old scores. It will be a tough, bloody fight. He will have to be ready for it.

Perry, however, has a potential trump card up his sleeve as he rebuilds political capital. It’s simple: he can drop out today, and endorse someone else. Doing so today, before the CNN Debate tomorrow, gives the news time to sink in…

Huntsman has already done his part to help Romney. Perry’s endorsement today or tomorrow morning could offset that, shifting undecideds and Perry’s own voters to someone else and get them a leg up on Mitt Romney. With Newt Gingrich surging according to the latest Rasmussen poll and Sarah Palin saying she’d support him, Perry’s withdrawal and endorsement before Saturday could ensure a Gingrich win.

Rick Perry’s campaign has come to an end. But he could leave on an unexpected high note — helping conservatives unite around one not-Romney in a way no one else has been able to. Rick Perry could be the catalyst and kingmaker so many have been looking for, even as other conservatives have stood by, unwilling to endorse in the face of long odds.

Gingrich wrote the foreword to Perry’s book, Erickson reminds us, so jumping on the Newt bandwagon now would make sense not just politically but personally. Erick and the Red State guys know him much better than I ever will but my sense of him from his rhetoric on the trail is that he’d rather press on to the bitter end and let voters stop the fight on Saturday — notwithstanding the weakened position that would leave him in back home — than hit the mat for strategic advantage. Go read this piece, for instance, recounting a Perry appearance in Spartanburg 10 days ago. The idea of forging on honorably and never giving up obviously means a lot to him, or at least it did 10 days ago. Maybe the calculus has changed now that it’s clear there’ll be no eleventh-hour surge — or maybe he thinks Gingrich is bound to fall short against Romney even with Perry’s five percent. If he dropped out and endorsed Newt and Romney still won, he’d earn a little goodwill for falling on his sword to try to stop Mitt but he’d get no “kingmaker” stature and he’d antagonize the almost-certain nominee and possible next president.

His spokesman seems to be handling the idea … not so well:

Mark Miner, a spokesman for Perry, said the Texas governor is focused on the people of South Carolina, not the pundits declaring the end of his campaign. “Pundits aren’t going to decide this race. The people of South Carolina are going to decide this race,” Miner said. “The governor’s focused on the people of South Carolina and their votes, not a pundit sitting behind a computer somewhere.”

Asked if there is a chance Perry will drop out of the race before Saturday, Miner said, “We are in this race through the primary. … There is no intention of leaving this race.”

Note to Miner: That random pundit sitting behind his computer screen is the same guy who introduced Perry before his big announcement speech this summer. And it’s not just Erickson who thinks it’s time. Click here and skip ahead to 4:15 to hear Laura Ingraham ring the bell on Perry too. Exit question: If he’s going to do this, how much time does he have left to decide? The CNN debate is 27 hours away.