FORMER Texas governor Rick Perry ended his second bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Friday, becoming the first major candidate of the 2016 campaign to give up on the White House.
The longest-serving governor in Texas history told a group of conservative activists in St Louis that “some things have become clear” and he was suspending his campaign.
“We have a tremendous field of candidates – probably the greatest group of men and women,” Perry said. “I step aside knowing our party is in good hands, as long as we listen to the grassroots, listen to that cause of conservatism. If we do that, then our party will be in good hands.”
Well over a dozen Republicans are competing for the party’s nomination.
Four years after his first bid for the White House ended with disappointing finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Perry could not even make it to the second debate night of the 2016 race after failing to poll well enough to qualify.
In a debate four years ago, he could not remember the third federal agency he had promised to close if elected, and muttered “Oops” – a moment that doomed his bid.
Unlike in the 2012 contest, when he led briefly in some polls, Perry was an underdog from the start of his campaign.
The 2016 Republican campaign has been dominated by billionaire Donald Trump, who stole Perry’s Iowa campaign chairman after Perry was forced to suspend paying members of his staff as his fundraising dried up.
Trump was conciliatory in a message on Twitter following Perry’s departure from the race, despite memorable clashes with him during the campaign. He described Perry as “a terrific guy,” adding “I wish him well — I know he will have a great future!”
Trump, who has made insulting other candidates and high-profile media personalities a feature of his campaign, lobbed some of his most personal attacks against Perry. Among them, he implied that Perry isn’t very smart. “He put on glasses so people think he’s smart. People can see through the glasses,” Trump said.
In his farewell remarks in St Louis, Perry seemed to take a jab at Trump, who has called for mass deportations and accused undocumented immigrants of being “rapists” and criminals. “Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ,” Perry said.
“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 said.
Like Trump, Perry is an ex-Democrat. He was elected to the Texas state House as a Democrat in 1984 and backed Al Gore in the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries.
Another of Perry’s former rivals for the nomination, Florida senator Marco Rubio, said in a statement: “I have no doubt that his service to our nation is not over.”
His campaign struggled financially from the start. Perry raised just $1.1 million during the April to June fundraising quarter and ran so low on cash that he stopped paying staff over the summer.
A group of political action committees, largely funded by three big Perry backers, had briefly kept Perry afloat by raising $17m. His decision on Friday came as a surprise to those groups, which are barred from communicating directly with the campaign.
Which candidates are still running?
THERE are currently 16 Republican candidates eyeing up a White House run in 2016.
Real estate magnate Donald Trump has dominated the headlines so far with his outspoken views, despite being seen as a political outsider.
Jeb Bush, brother of former president George W Bush and son of former president George H W Bush, has thrown his hat into the ring alongside former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who failed to secure a nomination in 2008.
Neurosurgeon Ben Carson has been critical of Obamacare and declared he does not believe in evolution, while Senator Lindsay Graham has pledged to focus on foreign policy.
Conservative firebrand Ted Cruz, who spoke in the senate for 21 hours against Obamacare, has put himself forward.
Former US attorney Chris Christie, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, and Ohio governor John Kasich also join the race alongside former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, who serves as a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The sole female candidate, Carly Fiorina, is a former executive at Hewlett Packard.
Florida senator Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, has lost some support due to his suggested immigration reforms.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is in the running for the second time.
Three-time New York governor George Pataki, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and Kentucky senator Rand Paul are also in the running for the 2016 ticket.