Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday that he was dropping out of the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination.
"I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States," Perry told conservatives in a speech at the 44th Eagle Council in St. Louis, Missouri.
The two-day event is organized by longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Five other candidates are scheduled to speak at the event.
"We have a tremendous field, probably the greatest group of men and women in a generation," the Lone Star State's longest-serving governor said. "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.
"I share this news with no regrets," Perry continued. "It has been a privilege and an honor to travel this country, to speak with the American people about their hopes and dreams, to see a sense of optimism prevalent despite a season of cynical politics."
Perry followed up a few hours later with an email to his supporters.
"The conservative movement has always been about principles, not personalities," the email said. "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. I still believe in the power of that message – a message that offers hope, redemption and solace in the midst of storms."
Long trailing in the polls since he announced his candidacy on June 4, Perry's exit leaves 16 candidates in the race. In recent weeks, he reduced his campaign in New Hampshire and had stopped paying staff.
Perry appeared in the second-tier debate of White House contenders last month in Cleveland, and did not make the cut for next Wednesday's debate among the leading candidates at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
In a campaign that has been dominated by GOP front-runner Donald Trump, Perry often tried to distinguish himself by touting his service as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force and as the only candidate that has effectively addressed the illegal immigrant border crisis.
He also attacked Trump for his negative comments about Mexicans — the only other candidate to do so in response to a call from another contender, former New York Gov. George Pataki — leading Trump to slam his record on addressing the border crisis.
Just last week, Trump said Perry was leaving the race.
"Perry attacked me; now he's getting out of the race," Trump said last Thursday
after he signed a pledge with the Republican National Committee to not run an independent campaign if he fails to get the GOP nod.
"He was at 4 or 5 percent, now he's getting out of the race, he was at zero."
Perry later told Fox News at that point that he was not quitting.
"The bottom line is I'm still here, I'm still working, and we need to be talking about solutions and not just rhetoric out there," Perry told Gretchen Carlson.
In his remarks Friday, Perry took an apparent parting shot at Trump's outspoken position on immigrants, particularly Hispanics.
"Demeaning people of Hispanic heritage is not just ignorant, it betrays the example of Christ," Perry said.
Trump reacted swiftly on Twitter to Perry's announcement:
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