Rick Perry 1st to exit 2016 Republican presidential race
'Some things have become clear,' former Texas governor tells supporters Friday night
Former Texas governor Rick Perry is dropping out of the race for U.S. president, ending his second bid for the Republican nomination and becoming the first major candidate of the 2016 campaign to give up on his White House aspirations.
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 after polling at near zero per cent support.
"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."
Dallas businessman and longtime Perry donor Roy Bailey said Friday the former governor called him Thursday night and broke the news that he was planning to leave the race.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who took the stage at the Eagle Forum conference in St. Louis immediately after Perry announced his exit, called on the crowd to pray for Perry's future success.
"The only thing harder than to get into a race for something like president, is to make the decision to get out of the race," said Huckabee, the runner-up for the Republican nomination in 2008. "And I hope that all of you will recognize that it was a very difficult decision. I've been there before."
Perry sat behind most contenders
Four years after his first bid for the White House ended after disappointing finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Perry this time couldn't even make it to the second debate night of the 2016 race.
He delivered a stronger performance at that first event than he did four years ago, when he couldn't remember the third federal agency he'd promised to close if elected and muttered "oops" — a moment that doomed his bid in 2012.
But few noticed Perry in a 2016 Republican campaign dominated by billionaire Donald Trump, who stole away the former Texas governor's Iowa campaign chairman after Perry was forced to suspend paying members of his staff as his campaign fundraising dried up.
"It'd be easy just to keep going, be easy to go do the debate next week, be easy to keep going to Iowa and South Carolina and other states and everything and taking your money and dragging it out," Bailey said.
"He could see it was pretty obvious to him he wasn't going to be the next presidential nominee from the Republican Party," Bailey added.
Super PACs were backing Perry
A group of super PACs, largely funded by three big Perry backers, had briefly kept Perry afloat by raising $17 million US, hiring their own Iowa staff and producing ads for television and digital, along with mail campaigns. His decision Friday came as a surprise to those groups, which are barred from communicating directly with the campaign.
"The decisions of a candidate to get into to or out of a campaign of this magnitude are intensely personal, family decisions," said Ray Sullivan, the co-chair of one of the pro-Perry super PACs.
"The campaign's cash position matters, your poll numbers matter, but those things are surmountable if the candidate and his family are willing to stick it out even against seemingly long odds."