Perry says he's dropping out of presidential race

By David Espo

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 19 2012 11:00 a.m. MST

Also in play are at least three influential "super" political action committees supporting Perry. One so-called super PAC, called Make Us Great Again, aired more than $3.3 million worth of ads in Iowa and South Carolina supporting Perry. A spokesman for the group did not immediately return calls from the AP seeking comment about whom the PAC will support with Perry out of the GOP race.

Perry, 61, was relatively unknown outside Texas until he succeeded George W. Bush as governor after Bush was elected president in 2000. A former Democrat, Perry had already spent about 15 years in state government when he became governor. He went on to become the state's longest-serving chief executive, winning the office three times, most recently in 2010.

Part of Perry's appeal came from his humble beginnings in tiny Paint Creek, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University and was a pilot in the Air Force before winning election in 1984 to the Texas House of Representatives. He switched to the GOP in 1989 and served as the state's agriculture commissioner before his election as lieutenant governor in 1998.

Perry's success as a politician suggested he would be a strong competitor to Obama. He had never lost a race in Texas, and his fight against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2010 showed how tough he could be on a rival.

Perry picked Aug. 13 for his official announcement speech, the same day as the Iowa Straw Poll. While rival Michele Bachmann won that poll, the Texas governor cast a shadow over her victory by challenging her as conservatives' best hope for winning the nomination and defeating Obama.

He entered the Republican presidential race near the top of some polls. But his support of a Texas policy to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates soon proved to be problematic with conservatives nationwide. So, too, did his 2007 order to require schoolgirls in Texas to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus. Although state lawmakers overturned the order, Perry defended the vaccinations as necessary to combatting the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.

His performance on the campaign trail also led to concerns about how his rhetoric would sound to a national audience. During a campaign stop in Iowa in August, he suggested that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would be practically committing treason if he were to print more money and said, "I don't know what y'all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas."

A Perry speech to a New Hampshire audience in October led to a damaging video, during which he appeared unusually animated — "loopy" to some observers — a stark contrast to the image of the serious, starchy image he had projected. Perry later told reporters that he hadn't been drinking or taking medication at the time and called it "a pretty typical speech for me."

More flubs followed. While criticizing the nine-member Supreme Court to a newspaper editorial board, he referred to "eight unelected and frankly unaccountable judges" and struggled to come up with the name of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, calling her "Montemayor." He urged college students in New Hampshire to support his candidacy, "those of you that will be 21" on Election Day, though the voting age is 18.

Associated Press writer Chris Tomlinson in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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