The 2016 race has claimed its first victim.
In a speech delivered at the Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced he is dropping out of the presidential race.
“When I gave my life to Christ, I said, ‘Your ways are greater than my ways. Your will superior to mine.’ Today I submit that His will remains a mystery, but some things have become clear,” Perry said. “That is why today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States.”
Perry made the announcement on Friday, less than a week before the next GOP debate, where he would have been relegated to the lower-tier stage. The decision came after he delivered a long and winding criticism of the current state of American politics and the country’s current leadership.
As Perry’s campaign struggled financially, raising just $1.1 million by the end of July and having to stop paying staffers in key primary states, a network of super PACs kept his presidential ambitions on life support. Outpacing the usual role, the groups did more than simply blanket the television with advertisements, taking measures including dispatching staff to Iowa. Perry’s PACs were infused with donations from only a handful of high-rolling donors, but they managed to raise $17 million this year through the end of June. When news of Perry’s financial troubles grew, the PACs were infused with other major donations. According to CBS News, one contributor gave $100,000.
Perry’s poll numbers have been as underwhelming as his funding. Perry—along with Louisiana Gov. Jindal, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—has been averaging around 1 percent in national polls. The former governor had met the threshold for the so-called “happy hour debate” being hosted by CNN on Sept. 16, but Perry and his team have apparently made the calculus that it’s not worth toiling away on the second stage, waiting for the money to run out. For Perry, the view from his back porch is a lot better than the one from the debate stage.
During his speech, Perry sounded a note of optimism on the state of the presidential race and the 2016 Republican field.
“We have a tremendous field—the best in a generation—so I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, and as long as we listen to the grassroots, the cause of conservatism will be too,” he said.
He name-checked at least one now-ex-competitor, Jindal, for pushing for conservative education reforms in his state.
But Perry also issued a warning. He called on the country “not to nominate a candidate whose rhetoric speaks louder than his record” and urged voters not to value “the cult of personality over durable life qualities.” In the past, Perry has been vocally critical of Donald Trump’s presence in the race, calling the real estate mogul’s candidacy “a cancer on conservatism” that “must be clearly diagnosed, excised, and discarded,” at an event in July.
Trump, for his part, had only kind words for Perry on Friday. “Governor Perry is a terrific guy and I wish him well- I know he will have a great future!,” Trump tweeted. Perry received similar words of praise from Santorum, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Perry also issued an apparent warning to the Republican Party as well as the rest of the GOP field, saying, “We cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further. The answer to our current divider-in-chief is not to elect a Republican divider-in-chief.”
Perry’s 2016 campaign was shorter than the last time he took at shot at the White House, in the 2012 cycle. Back then, his effort lasted five months, ending in January 2012 with an endorsement of Newt Gingrich and a claim from Perry that there simply was “no viable path forward for me.” He hadn’t seen much success in the Iowa caucuses weeks beforehand, finishing fifth.
Fast-forward seven years, and his campaign was just three months old when it folded early Friday evening, leaving behind 16 candidates in the GOP field who have, in various ways, filled the straight-talking, executive-branch-leading identity that Perry hoped to claim.
“I share this news with no regrets. It has been a privilege and an honor to travel this country, to speak with the American people about their hopes and dreams, to see a sense of optimism prevalent despite a season of cynical politics,” Perry said on Friday.
In his Eagle Forum speech, Perry outlined a vision for the policies he hopes that America’s leaders will pursue, hitting on themes like strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border and building up America’s military that have so far proven to be a popular refrain for many of the Republicans in the 2016 field.
“Washington needs to return to doing its constitutional duty: standing up a strong military, implementing foreign policy from a policy of strength, not weakness, and securing the border with Mexico,” Perry said, adding: “They need to get out of the education business, get out of the health care business, and stop utilizing [Environmental Protection Agency] zealots to shut down small business.”
In a Fox News appearance last week, Perry may have inadvertently hinted at his decision to drop out of the race. Last Thursday, a Fox host asked Perry to respond to Trump’s suggestion that Perry was dropping out of the race. Perry responded with a classic Texas malapropism.
“A broken clock is right once a day,” he said.