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Rick Perry drops out of 2016 race

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ended his 2016 presidential bid on Friday.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry ended his 2016 presidential bid on Friday.

Perry exits a crowded Republican field, in which the former governor has struggled to gain traction. Perry was the first candidate in the race to drop out, leaving 16 other Republicans to vie for the nomination.

"When i gave my life to Christ, I said your ways are greater than my ways, your will is superior to mine. Today I submit to you his will remains a mystery, but some things have become and become very clear to me, that is why today I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States," Perry said in a speech in St. Louis. He added, "I give you this news with no regrets. It’s been a privilege to me. It’s been an honor to travel this country and speak with the American people about their hopes and their dream, to see a sense of optimism being prevalent despite this season of cynical politics."

RELATED: Perry campaign fading fast, shutters headquarters in South Carolina

Perry showed signs of struggle weeks ago, with the news in August that his campaign had stopped paying staffers. Earlier this month, Perry's New Hampshire political director jumped shipped, following the resignations of other top campaign aides. Perry also failed to qualify for the prime time slot in the first Republican primary debate on Fox News on Aug. 6, and he was set to be part of the so-called "kids table" debate for lower-polling candidates next week on CNN. Perry raised just over $1 million in his first fundraising quarter, coming in well below many of his GOP rivals.

This was Perry's second presidential bid. At this point in the 2012 campaign, Perry was leading in the polls. But he finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses, thanks in part to his infamous "oops" moment during one of the Republican primary debates, when Perry couldn't remember the third federal agency he would ax as president.

Perry on Friday implored the eventual Republican nominee to focus on the "cause of conservatism more than the cause of their own celebrity," a veiled jab a GOP front-runner Donald Trump. The billionaire real estate mogul has soared in the polls since he entered the race in June, despite making a series of controversial comments about undocumented immigrants.

Trump and other Republican candidates wished Perry well on Twitter Friday.

NBC News' Mark Murray and Carrie Dann contributed.