Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday announced that he was suspending his presidential campaign, becoming the first Republican to drop out of the race and kicking off the winnowing stage of the crowded GOP contest.

"We have a tremendous field—the best in a generation—so I step aside knowing our party is in good hands," Perry said at a conservative conference in St. Louis.

The longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry had never lost a race in his home state in his three-decades-long career, making his stumbles in the national spotlight this year, and during his ill-fated 2012 bid, all the more humbling.

As a titan in the Texas political arena, Perry entered the 2012 GOP primary as the frontrunner, only to watch his campaign implode amid a series of high-profile missteps. In an attempt at political redemption, the former governor spent close to two years traveling and studying up on policy issues in the run-up to 2016, seeking to rehabilitate his tarnished image. But the spectacular nature of his 2012 collapse proved difficult to overcome and he struggled to remain relevant. Fundraising was a challenge, and he failed to gain traction in the polls despite spending significant time in the early states, especially Iowa, and despite the assistance of a well-funded super PAC.