Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has become the first in a crowded field of 17 Republican Party candidates to drop out of the U.S. presidential race.
Speaking Friday before a private conservative organization in St. Louis, Missouri, known as the Eagle Forum, Perry said he would step aside with no regrets and referred to the candidates who remain in the race as a “tremendous field.”
Perry accused President Barack Obama of having pitted Americans against each other for political purposes and warned Republicans not to nominate their own “divider-in-chief” by demeaning people of Hispanic heritage.
The remark appeared aimed at candidates including Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who has demanded strict measures to restrict illegal immigration from Mexico and suggested that many illegal immigrants are drug dealers, criminals and rapists.
“We cannot indulge nativist appeals that divide the nation further,” Perry said.
As governor of Texas, Perry had gained support from many in the state’s large Hispanic population by promoting programs that provide educational opportunities to the children of illegal immigrants. However those measures appear to have hurt him with Republican voters who favor tougher anti-immigrant measures.
Perry, who launched his campaign on June 4, has been polling in the low single digits throughout his campaign, most recently at one percent in the crucial first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa.
With 17 candidates vying to represent the Republican Party in next year’s presidential election, this has been the most crowded field in memory, making it difficult for any of the candidates to win broad support. The field is currently led by Trump and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, neither of whom has ever held elected office.
Perry also failed to garner sufficient funding for a long-haul contest. Last month his campaign ran out of money to pay staff and his campaign manager in Iowa, Sam Clovis, left. Perry’s New Hampshire campaign office also closed, leaving him without any team on the ground in the first two states to hold contests early next year.
Perry also ran in 2012, briefly polling at the top of the pack before falling to eventual nominee Mitt Romney. He was the longest-serving governor in Texas history.