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Rick Perry quits Republican presidential race

Rick Perry.
Rick Perry.
Justin Sullivan/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

  1. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced on Friday that he would suspend his campaign for the Republican presidential race, making him the first noteworthy candidate to do so.
  2. Stuck at or below 1 percent in most polls, Perry had failed to qualify for the primetime portion of either of the first two Republican debates. His campaign fundraising had dried up, and he had to stop paying his staffers last month.
  3. Perry's decision reduces the enormous Republican field from 17 candidates to 16.

The Republican electorate was looking for a new face — not a retread from 2012

Perry's announcement today brings the second of his two disappointing presidential bids — and, almost certainly, his political career — to a close.

Back in mid-2011, Perry's future seemed much brighter. GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney was picking up only tepid support, and many in the party and its conservative base yearned for an alternative. Who better than Texas's popular governor, who was generally viewed in the state as a formidable political operative?

Perry shot to the front of polls even before he entered the race. But once in the media spotlight, he stumbled. His support was already declining when he made an infamous gaffe during a fall debate — when he said he would eliminate three federal agencies, he couldn't remember the third, and lamely stammered out an answer before concluding with, simply, "Oops." His support evaporated, and after he performed very poorly in both Iowa and New Hampshire, he quit the race.

But soon after returning to his gubernatorial duties, he began positioning himself for another try. His supporters put out the word that his disappointing performance in 2011 was an aberration. He was debilitated by back surgery, which forced him to go on painkillers and gave him sleep problems, they said. He was calling in leading experts from across the country to brief him on national policy, they said. And, of course, he got new glasses. In a race without a strong frontrunner or an obvious conservative champion, Perry hoped he'd have a shot.

Yet the electorate never gave him another look. This year he started out averaging about 3 percent in the polls, and only declined since. Embarrassingly, he narrowly failed to qualify for Fox News's primetime Republican debate last month — Ohio Gov. John Kasich edged him out at the last minute, despite Perry's attempts to get media attention by picking a fight with poll leader Donald Trump. ("He put on glasses so people think he's smart," Trump said. "People can see through the glasses.")

Relegation to the "kiddie table" debate wasn't necessarily the end for Perry. If he had performed well there, he could have impressed the unexpectedly large audience watching and revived his campaign.

Instead, he gave a fumbling performance that seemed to demonstrate little had actually changed for him since 2012. Carly Fiorina was generally viewed as the winner — so much so that CNN changed its rules so she'd make it into the primetime segment of its debate, which will take place on September 16. Perry would be left out again.

Though Super PACs supporting Perry raised an impressive amount of money from a few wealthy donors — $12.8 million! — his failure to raise money for his actual campaign (where individuals can only contribute a few thousand dollars each) proved too much for him to surmount. The writing was already on the wall last month, when it was reported that he'd stopped paying his staffers.

It's clear that the GOP electorate is looking for a newer face — and had no intention of giving Rick Perry a second chance. So he's bowing to the inevitable.

"When I gave my life to Christ, I said, 'Your ways are greater than my ways. Your will superior to mine," Perry said in explaining his decision. "Today I submit that His will remains a mystery. But some things have become clear. That is why I am suspending my campaign."