DES MOINES, Iowa --Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who reminded reporters Tuesday that he is suited for a long campaign because he has run a marathon, decided while out on the running trail Wednesday that he would stay in the GOP presidential race.After his fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Perry said late Tuesday that he would return to Texas and determine whether to continue his campaign. But the governor made his decision before ever leaving Iowa."I was out on the trail when it kind of came to me, he told reporters Wednesday as he left his West Des Moines hotel to return to Austin."I reassessed. Were headed to New Hampshire and then to South Carolina."He said he ''absolutely" planned to participate in two debates in New Hampshire."Im excited," he said. "Its going to be fun. And all our friends in New Hampshire and South Carolina, get ready, here we come.Perry first hinted at his decision on his Twitter feed early Wednesday.As news was spreading Wednesday morning that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachman was officially suspending her presidential campaign, Perry posted on Twitter around 10:15 a.m.: "And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State ... Here we come South Carolina!!!"The governor included a photograph of him in running togs, flashing a thumbs-up.A few minutes later, Perry's son, Griffin, confirmed the campaign's plans: "See y'all next week in Carolina! I expect all my SEC brethren to come out in force. #Perry2012"Late Tuesday, however, Perry's intentions weren't so clear."With the voters' decision tonight in Iowa, I decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race," Perry told supporters in Iowa, his family standing behind him.Ray Sullivan, Perry's communications director, said the governor made the decision to reassess after a top-level meeting in his hotel room after learning of the caucus results. The meeting included the governor, first lady Anita Perry and senior campaign members.Sullivan said the govenor and his campaign would review the caucus and "look at our resources" to decide whether to compete in South Carolina. A decision "could come as early as Thursday," Sullivan said.Perry, who enjoyed a brief stint as a frontrunner before plunging in the polls, was seeking to revitalize his campaign with a strong showing in the first-in-the-nation caucuses. He was hoping for at least a third-place shot but got only 10 percent support in the caucuses to finish fifth.Perry was originally scheduled to travel to South Carolina on Wednesday. But he said Tuesday that he was scrapping those plans."With a little prayer and reflection, I'm going to decide the best path forward," he said. "But I want to tell you, there's been no greater joy in my life than to be able to share with the people of Iowa and this country that there is a model to take this country forward and it is in the great state of Texas."Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses in the wee hours Wednesday by just eight votes, bringing down the curtain on an improbable first act in the campaign to pick a candidate to challenge President Obama in the fall.The Iowa GOP said Romney got 30,015 votes, to 30,007 for Rick Santorum, whose late surge carried him to a near win after months languishing in the depths of opinion polls.Perry, with his rugged looks, an unblemished record of nine election victories and more than a decade of executive experience as Texas' longest-serving governor, seemed destined for a strong performance when he entered the race after weeks of consideration. He quickly surpassed Romney to take the lead, stirring talk that he was on the march toward the nomination.But a decidedly lackluster performance in early debates -- including his "oops" moment, in which he forgot the name of one of three agencies he wants to eliminate -- contributed to a prolonged slide in the polls.Perry recovered some in later debates and seemed to regain his political footing in a 44-city bus tour, in which he delivered impassioned appeals for Iowans to get behind his candidacy.Chip Felkel, a Republican analyst in South Carolina who is not aligned with a campaign, said Perry has "dug a pretty deep hole for himself" there because of his "considerable missteps" during the campaign and would have trouble recovering regardless of his performance in Iowa.Analysts said Perry may have been hurt by his early status as front-runner, making him a target for attacks from his rivals that contributed to his slide. Perry also failed to attract a coveted endorsement from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who threw her support to Romney.Jindal at his sideBut Perry put together other influential endorsements, including that of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was consistently at Perry's side during the final hours of the Iowa campaign.Perry also blanketed the state with TV ads -- the most of any candidate -- and brought in a "strike force" of more than 500 volunteers from 30 states, mostly from Texas, to fan out across the caucuses.Top Texas officials and nearly 15 Republicans from the Legislature also worked on Perry's behalf.Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Comptroller Susan Combs were present at Perry's events Tuesday and were assigned to attend key caucuses to court support.Final swingAs he made a final round of appearances Tuesday, Perry urged potential caucusgoers to join him in his mission "to take America" back from Washington insiders and out-of control spending.In an appearance before employees at the Principal Financial Group, one of Des Moines' biggest employers, he won at least one convert by promising that he wouldn't regulate or tax Internet use if he becomes president.Travis Rosa, an analyst at the international firm, said at the outset of the event that he was undecided on a candidate. But after Perry answered his question about the Internet, he said he would "probably" support Perry.Steve Waage and his wife, Carol, who chatted with Perry just before a caucus at a church in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee, said they liked his conservative credentials but were still unsure whom they would support."We're kind of torn," said Waage, a retired John Deere employee, explaining that the overriding attribute they want in a candidate is the ability to beat President Barack Obama.Robert Haus, Perry's Iowa co-chairman, said the campaign planned to have a presence at nearly all of the 1,700-plus caucuses. Supporters, many of them wearing white Perry T-shirts, made speeches to tout his candidacy and worked the crowds beforehand.Volunteers contacted over 50,000 Iowans, including 10,000 on Monday, and knocked on at least 1,000 doors, Haus said.Dave Montgomery,512-476-4294Twitter: @daveymontgomeryDave Montgomery, 512-476-4294Twitter: @daveymontgomery
Staff writer Aman Batheja contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.