NEW YORK • Two-time presidential candidate Rick Perry became the first to drop out of the unprecedentedly crowded 2016 Republican field last Friday, the latest sign of how devalued political experience has become in a race where anti-establishment candidates have surged ahead.
The former Texas governor, a once-formidable fund-raiser who had the most executive experience in the field, pulled the plug on his latest White House bid a little more than three months after entering the race, taking a few parting shots at front runner Donald Trump as he made his exit. "We have a tremendous field of candidates," Mr Perry said at the Eagle Forum in St Louis, Missouri. "I step aside knowing our party is in good hands."
Calling on his party to remain positive during a time of cynical politics, Mr Perry said Republicans will find success, if they listen to the "grassroots" and their conservative ideals.
Mr Perry was making his second consecutive run for the presidency, but in recent weeks, his small cadre of advisers had been discussing whether he should drop out. They had hoped to rely on his well-funded super political action committees (PAC), but concluded they did not even have the minimum amount of campaign cash to do that, advisers said.
He had already stopped paying staff members and was uncertain whether he would even have the money to pay state filing fees in the coming months to be on the ballot next year, they said. He had less than US$1 million (S$1.4 million) in his campaign treasury as of June 30, far less than some competitors.
I step aside knowing our party is in good hands.
MR RICK PERRY (above), two-time presidential candidate who dropped out of the presidential race
Mr Perry's decision roiled the Texas donor world last Friday, setting off a race to win the allegiance of Mr Perry's wealthiest supporters, who poured more than US$17 million into his super PAC even while his campaign struggled to raise traditional contributions.
"We are obviously disappointed," said Mr Austin Barbour, a spokesman for the fund-raising conglomerate, in a statement last Friday. He did not say what the super PACs, which advertised heavily on Mr Perry's behalf in Iowa, plan to do with any remaining money.
As recently as last month, during a visit to the Iowa State Fair, Mr Perry insisted he was not discouraged and resolved to persevere. "This is a really long process," he said.
The first of the Republican presidential candidates to directly attack Mr Trump, Mr Perry was in many respects a victim of the real estate mogul's popularity. In many cases, Mr Trump latched onto some of Mr Perry's favourite issues and made them his own with considerably more rhetorical flair.
Where Mr Perry called for reining in Washington, Mr Trump called the nation's leaders "stupid". Where Mr Perry called for gaining control of the nation's borders, Mr Trump called for building a wall.
Mr Perry, who called Trump "a cancer" on the Republican Party earlier this summer, did not mention him by name as he exited the race, but the references were unmistakable.
"We cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further," Mr Perry told his audience in St Louis. "The answer to our current divider-in-chief is not to elect a Republican divider-in-chief."
Mr Perry said the Republican nominee "must make the case for the cause of conservatism more than the cause of (his) own celebrity".
After furiously belittling Mr Perry, including suggesting that he be made to take an IQ test, and predicting the end of his campaign for weeks, Mr Trump made a peace offering via Twitter minutes after Mr Perry finished speaking, a potential appeal to the former governor's supporters.
BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK TIMES