Rick Perry’s second presidential bid has ended—and not with a whimper, but with a bang.
“When I gave my life to Christ, I said, ‘Your ways are greater than my ways. Your will superior to mine,’” Perry said. “Today I submit that His will remains a mystery, but some things have become clear. That is why today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States.”
He also praised the Republican field, calling it “the best in a generation.”
And he took a faith-based swipe at the Republican frontrunner.
“Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant,” he said. “It betrays the example of Christ.”
Perry spent most of his time this cycle in a public spat with Donald Trump over Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants and John McCain’s war record. In return, Trump repeatedly referred to the Texas governor as dumb, once tweeting, “He should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate.”
The governor’s exit from the race should be a chilling reminder to the other contenders of just what they’re getting themselves into when they head to the CNN debate stage next week. Perry was an A-list candidate back in 2012, snatching Michele Bachmann’s momentum from her Iowa Straw Poll win and drawing crowds. This time four years ago, he was leading the polls in the race for the 2012 GOP nomination.
But his one debate gaffe—when he couldn’t name the third federal agency he wanted to eliminate—ended that effort. The damage lasted; Perry’s “whoops” flub came up in virtually all the coverage of his 2016 bid, and became the defining moment of his political career.
Which, some will convincingly argue, is unfair.
The governor presided over the implementation of criminal justice reform in Texas that resulted in prison closures, lower incarceration rates, and less crime. His willingness to embrace that issue made it easier for other conservative governors and legislatures to follow suit. And it gave political cover to Republican politicians in Washington, who followed his lead and embraced efforts to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.
But it wasn’t enough to get his campaign the requisite juice.
National Journal reported last month that some of his South Carolina campaign staffers had stopped getting paid. His state director there, Katon Dawson, promised CBS that the governor’s team would “be able to live off the land for a while.” And that’s when it was clear the buzzards were circling.
In fact, while most people thought Perry couldn’t go the distance, it was his nemesis, Trump, who said it in a recent press conference.
“Perry attacked me; now he’s getting out of the race. He was at 4 or 5 percent, now he’s getting out of the race, he was at zero,” said Trump.
This time, he was right.