Rick Perry on Friday became the first presidential candidate to drop out of the unprecedentedly crowded 2016 presidential field, in the latest indication of how devalued political experience has become in a race where anti-establishment candidates have surged to the fore.
The former Texas governor, a once-formidable fundraiser who had the most executive experience in the field, pulled the plug on his campaign a little more than three months after entering the race, taking a few parting shots at the Republican presidential front-runner as he did..
“Today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States,” the former Texas governor said at the Eagle Forum in St. Louis, Missouri.
“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. “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, who briefly rocketed to the top of the Republican presidential field in 2012 only to be upended by an embarrassing debate performance, had hoped to turn things around this year. But he had been struggling to gain traction in the polls and was suffering from substantial financial woes. Over the summer, he stopped paying some of his staff. He had less than $1 million in his campaign treasury as of June 30, far less than some of his competitors.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday of likely Republican caucus participants in Iowa, Perry record support from just 1 percent. But as recently as last month, on a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Perry insisted he was undiscouraged and resolved to persevere. “This is a really long process,” he said.
The first of the Republican presidential candidates to directly attack Donald Trump, Perry was in many respects a victim of the real estate mogul’s popularity. In many cases, Trump latched onto some of Perry’s favorite issues and made them his own with considerably more rhetorical flair. Where Perry called for reining in Washington, Trump called the nation’s leaders “stupid.” Where Perry called for gaining control of the nation’s borders, Trump called for building a wall. Perry, who called Trump “a cancer” on the Republican Party earlier this summer, did not mention him by name Friday but the references appeared unmistakable.
“We cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further,” Perry told his audience in St. Louis. “The answer to our current divider-in-chief is not to elect a Republican divider-in-chief.”
Perry added that the Republican nominee “must make the case for the cause of conservatism more than the cause of their own celebrity.”
After furiously belittling Perry and predicting the end of his campaign for weeks, Trump made a peace offering via Twitter on Friday, which may have been a way to reach out to the former governor’s supporters. Tweeting, “@GovernorPerry is a terrific guy and I wish him well- I know he will have a great future!”