Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday he is dropping out of the race for the White House, becoming the first Republican to do so.
“I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States,” Perry said Friday evening during a speech in Missouri to the Eagle Forum.
“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 entered the race in June, flanked by famous Navy SEALs, but never caught fire. According to the Real Clear Politics national polling average, Perry is polling at just .8 percent today.
Perry struggled to overcome the negative impression with voters during his brief campaign for president during the 2012 cycle, when he memorably gaffed during a televised debate by forgetting which cabinet departments he was proposing to eliminate. At one point in 2011, Perry was leading in the polls.
Hoping for a comeback during the first debate of the 2016 cycle last month, Perry’s low poll numbers relegated him to the earlier debate, rather than the primetime showdown.
But Perry failed to break through during the debate and his campaign embarrassingly had to deny he said “Ronald Raven” instead of Ronald Reagan during one of his answers.
In his speech, as he has done on the campaign trail, the former governor boasted of his record in Texas.
“During my 14 years as governor, Texas created nearly one-third of all new American jobs,” he said. “We passed balanced budgets, cut taxes, set aside billions of dollars for a rainy day, and elevated our graduation rates to second highest in the nation.”
During the campaign, he clashed frequently with rival Donald Trump, giving a speech at one point calling the New York developer a “cancer” on conservatism. At his withdrawal speech Friday evening, he alluded to Trump, encouraging voters to reject him.
“For me, the message has always been greater than the man,” he said. “The conservative movement has always been about principles, not personalities. Our nominee should embody those principles. He – or she – must make the case for the cause of conservatism more than the cause of their own celebrity.”
With a play on Trump’s campaign slogan, Perry said: “Let’s roll up our sleeves. Let’s get to work. Let’s make America, America again.”
Trump responded to Perry’s departure from the race with kind words.
.@GovernorPerry is a terrific guy and I wish him well- I know he will have a great future!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 11, 2015
Perry’s withdrawal means there are 16 Republicans now running for president. It also means there will be only be four Republicans — Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Lindsey Graham — participating in the early “happy hour” debate next week before the primetime event on CNN.